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Consider all of the information that we transmit over the Internet at all hours of the day and night — from banking and credit card statements to the long lost recipe for Grandma’s chocolate cake. It almost hurts to think of all the hackers who are sniffing at your digital data over the local wireless network and aim to exploit it for fun and profit.
Any time you spend learning about and then acting to secure your Internet activities is time VERY well spent.
Brock Stout, of Wheaton-based LTC Technologies, is a networking systems instructor at the College of DuPage and a small business network administrator. In this first of a two-part series on hacking prevention, he and other experts discuss responsible behavior in the digital realm.
Earle Miller, of Milwaukee, opened his email last month; 40 undeliverable messages greeted him, all from people in his address book. “Except that I had not emailed them,” Mr. Miller said. He checked his “Sent” folder; it was empty.
Healthcare consultant Paul Zorn, of Naperville, had a similar experience. Opening an email from his attorney that said “this is a must-read,” he clicked the link. “Soon I was alerted by friends who were surprised to see me selling Canadian pharmaceutical drugs — their way of telling me my email was spamming them.” Mr. Miller and Mr. Zorn changed their passwords. It worked.
Tip: add a secondary email address to your contact list. Check it regularly to intercept ghost emails.
Blunder #1: Sophisticated phishing email appears; you click on it. Phishing emails from your bank, utilities or the “IRS” use your name and ask for authentification data. Even the popular Symantec antivirus software maker has phishers using their logos and alerting subscribers, usually months ahead: “Your subscription is expiring. Renew now with a credit card.”
Blunder #2: Decoding programs can crack your secret password: “Bob1.” James Miller, (no relation to Earle Miller) is President of Chicago-based Investigative Services Agency. He changes all his passwords every 3 months and avoids names. A computer forensics investigator who provides business intelligence services, James Miller said cyber crime is a cat-and-mouse game. “Passwords must contain a letter, a number, a symbol. Using lower and upper case letters, and at least 12 characters long adds security.”
Blunder #3: WiFi fatal error: you log in anywhere. Like hulahooping on a balance beam, logging on from public spaces has bad outcomes. Save the Whole Foods for cheese sampling. (My office WiFi, while password-protected, has a common software glitch that spontaneously resets it to unsecured network status randomly. At that point, my neighbors with Firesheep-type programs may see my locked personal Tweets. [Not that someone would steal my classic s’mores recipe.]).
Said James Miller, “Yesterday we worried about pop-ups. Today, trojan horses arrive inside spam emails from people known by us. We trust the source and click. Once inside our computers, spiderbots crawl our email, grabbing our contacts.”
Tip: keep malware programs updated and do a full virus scan daily. Also, keep firewalls high or accept the risks: “Someone around the world or down the block has a go-around, so you have no choice—keep learning the newest ways to protect yourself,” James Miller said.
Blunder #4: You text like a pirate.
Any information that is sent or received by your cell phone, even if not a smart phone, is stored (nothing is ever deleted by your phone company as your data may be useful for future algorithms). Cell phones can be tapped and their texts bugged with spyware. Just ask any parent of a teenager.
Said Mr. Stout: “I try not to text or email a password and user name (or social security number) to a family member unless I have to, and then I split them up into separate messages and from separate accounts, if possible.”
Your texts and emails deserve encrypted transmittal over secure, password-protected lines and servers. Using open WiFi at Starbucks, while the user name and password page of your bank account log-in is encrypted (the “https” symbol), the actual pages beyond that log-in page may be viewable text clear as crystal to a hacker, and just as valuable.
How to recover when your email has been hacked.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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