We’re all more connected and more vulnerable to cyber crime than ever, thanks to the Internet, computers, devices and “smart” everything – like cars, homes, medical devices, even clothes.
From a blackmailer’s nude photos of Miss Teenage America in the privacy of her own bedroom, taken with her own laptop’s camera, which he had hacked, to millions of credit card accounts hacked through Target and other major retailers, to burglars targeting subjects through their social media postings, evidence abounds of our need to be educated about and careful with our use of technology.
Fortunately, experts like Marc Goodman, founder of the Future Crimes Institute, Global Security Advisor and Chair for Policy and Law at Google- and NASA-sponsored Singularity University, are working hard to help society understand and fight such crime. Goodman recently spoke about this topic at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Goodman’s book, “Future Crimes,” is a must read for anyone connected to the Internet and thoughtful about our future. It includes the following 11 tips for protecting yourself and your family online:
1. Update Frequently.
Hackers and ill-willed others use the bugs that run rampant in everyday software programs. Update your software frequently to guard against this. Particularly vulnerable are operating systems software, apps, browsers, plug-ins and other computer programs.
2.Download Software and Updates Only From Official Sites.
Use Apple’s app store and businesses’ sites. Avoid “free” third-party software and pirated media. Use Windows and Mac operating system settings that allow you to “white list” for their approved software.
3. Update Passwords Frequently Using a Long Mix of Symbols, Numbers, Upper and Lower Case Letters.
Yes, it’s a pain to constantly change and remember the new combinations. But, yes, it’s that important that you do it.
4. Use Administrator Accounts With Care.
Run your computer on a non-administrator account for everyday use. Switch to your administrator account only when absolutely necessary to update from a trusted source.
5. Turn Computers Off When Not In Use.
Don’t rely on sleep mode. Close all the way down to off. You reduce your cyber crime risk by over 33 percent with the simple act of turning your computer off while you sleep.
6. Encrypt Your Digital Life.
Both Windows and Mac have free programs for hard drive encryption (BitLocker and FileVault). Use them and a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your devices and Internet transmissions. Cell phones can and should also be encrypted and password or fingerprint protected.
Don’t click on links or open attachments you don’t trust. When in doubt, check with the individual who purportedly sent the message.
8. Back Up Data Frequently.
External hard drives – like Mac’s Time Machine and Windows Backup – are quick and easy to use. If you use the cloud as backup, encrypt this data too.
9. Cover Up or Turn Off Cameras When Not in Use.
Remember that Miss Teen America reference at the beginning of this article? This happens all the time. Hackers take control of digital cameras and take photos. Close your computer, or at least cover up the lens when you aren’t using it. Be just as careful with your cell phone and other digital device cameras too.
Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, other people’s computers or devices for your confidential online affairs.
11. Think Before You Share on Social Networks.
Stalkers, burglars and other criminals routinely monitor social media for information. Don’t let them learn about your family’s treasures, travel plans or other personal information that could enable them to do harm to you or your loved ones.