Cyber security: protecting yourself
By: Ali Moeen Nawazish
So much of our data is now online and available freely on the web. Data which ranges from professional to personal. Bank account details, where we work, our company profiles, our emails, personal messages, photos and even videos of us and our family are now all online. Whether this is on facebook, personal webpages, with other third party organizations. Even our tax details our very easily available online on the FBR website. All this data not only has immense value to ourselves but also to others who may choose to exploit it and also to use it against us.
Everyday we hear cases about data abuse and identity theft. Women become unsuspecting targets. With not only a lack of laws to protect against such abuse we are also haunted by a lack of knowledge on the subject matter at hand and perhaps mostly by a lack of a moral compass. Photoes of women and videos, most of the time personal are posted by others without any regret or remorse. The people doing such things having no idea about the consequences of their actions and how it can destroy the lives of others. Where facebook, youtube and the internet in general have become great tools for sharing our data with our friends and transacting professionally, they also give criminals an opportunity to exploit that data.
The first step in protecting oneself is regularly changing passwords whether that is for email or any other online service. Emails are not secure so one should always be careful about the nature of the data one is sending. It is also helpful to not use emails as storage but to save important data locally on your computer in an encrypted format. The more data is web accessible the more at risk it is. Another important step is to always password protect your phone.
Increasingly our mobile phones especially smart phones are holding more and more personal data. The most important of which are photos and videos. This is specially relevant to younger women, to whom this data is not only important but also poses a threat if leaked given a more conservative mindset of our society. It is unfortunate that disgrace in cases of leaked personal photos and videos is of the victim and not of the criminal. Parents should advise their children to not upload or post personal photos, and to keep pass codes on phones that have them. The best thing to do can be to take the photos off the phone as soon as possible and put them into a computer, and delete the photos from the phone.
It becomes specially dangerous when phones are being sold. Mobile shopkeepers can even retrieve deleted data, so it is always good to reset a phone and wipe it clean using free software’s available online. If you just search through Google or any other search engine you will find many freely available software’s which will wipe your phone clean. Also phones should always have pass codes on them.
Harassment on facebook and other social media sites is also becoming very common. Always read policies of such sites in case of offensive content being posted, and be quick to report it. Avoid panicking, and just report it and always confide with an authority figure if you see something like that happening. All will be fine and respect is never lost when someone victimizes you, do not fall into that trap. Another important step is to study through the privacy settings and make sure that the data being posted online is only accessible to friends and people you want it to be accessible to.
Bank transactions with the increase of online banking have become easier but also more susceptible to fraud. One should exercise caution and always be sure that the site they are using is genuine. Generally, “phishing” sites pretend to be real sites by looking like the site from a bank or social media site and will ask for you username and password and other sensitive information. Always be sure to check the address or URL bar to ensure that the site is genuine. This is generally common in emailed links. If you find this happening, it is always safe to close it and access what you are trying to get HGfrom the normal familiar route such as the home page of the website.
Recovery options are also increasingly important. Fill in your secret question and also other data such as mobile phone number and an alternative email address on all the sites. This will come in handy and help you recover your account if you if it is lost or hijacked. Hacked and hijacked accounts are a common problem and having backup recovery options such as receiving new passwords on your phone or an alternative email address can be a life saver and save you a lot of stress.
Coming under a cyber attack can be really stressful. The best thing to do is not to panic and to read through the steps given on the site as to what can be done and just do it. Online crime is harder to protect against than ordinary crime, because the cyber-criminal and the cyber-user both have a sense of security when being online and this ends up favouring the criminal more. Yet, protection is more guaranteed when in cyber space. Stay safe surfing the web, take the right steps and enjoy!