Unless you have been living in a cave hidden beneath the plains of Outer Mongolia for the last twenty years, the concept of protecting yourself online will not be alien to you.
Most new laptops and tablets come with built-in firewalls and sophisticated security packages. Most of us are aware of the need to protect our personal and financial data and install reliable anti-virus, anti-spam, anti- just about everything software.
But beneath all this overt security, lurks an even bigger danger.
The firewall hackers and fraudsters need to breach these days, is the one inside our heads. Cybercrime is now a form of psychological warfare at its most sophisticated.
All our innate human characteristics such as compassion, trust, arrogance, pride, greed, insecurity, can be controlled and manipulated in ways we have never seen before.
Our lives are played out on social media. Every aspect can be shared and exposed, from birth to death. Our most intimate moments are seen and commented on. And if you think only your chosen friends are witness to these private events, you could not be more wrong.
For those intent on profiting from such transparency, social media provides rich pickings.
We’ve posted before about the dangers of being taken in by fraudsters on online dating websites. The more information you reveal about yourself, the easier it is for hackers to exploit your vulnerabilities.
But as well as losing face, we can also lose out financially if we do not take steps to protect ourselves.
Perhaps the best advice is to separate your social media accounts from your business and financial ones. If a hacker gets into your Facebook page, it might be embarrassing or even humiliating, but the chances are your bank account will not be affected. But a hacker getting hold of your banking details is a different matter.
Use one email for your social pages such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, another for your online banking, and another for your work and business.
But don’t be naïve. Having a different email address for your online bank will not protect you sufficiently. Think about where you are logging in. Never carry out online banking transactions over a public network. You may always use the free WiFi at that nice Mrs Miggins’ coffee shop, but do you really know it’s safe? For all you know. Mrs Miggins might be accessing all your and other’s details from her hard drive on a regular basis.
It is easy for fraudsters to set up fake “Free WiFi” sites; it is easy for them to clone a bank’s website so that when you google the name of your bank it appears at the top of the search page ready for you to click on; it’s easy for them to create convincing shopping sites, ready for you to part with your hard earned cash for goods you will never receive.
But you can protect yourself.
If you are suspicious about a website, do a Whois search to check the identity of the site and the organisation behind it. Only use your banking website if it has https: at the front of the address (the “s” is the important bit – think “s” for “safe”). Never click on URLs that have been emailed to you. And always type your bank’s email address into your browser yourself – don’t click on the google search result.
It’s all about stopping and thinking. Being humans we are fallible. And that is what hackers rely on.