Helping you balance your online life

Aug 2nd


Computer Crimes: Protect Yourself from the Latest Online Threats

As hackers and identity thieves become more clever and adept at breaking into personal computers, WiFi networks, and even smartphones, lawmakers have enforced regulations that crack down on cyber criminals and help protect users.

Protect against online threats and computer crimes But while certain laws relating to computers and electronic communications have been enacted, cyber criminals continue to find ways to bypass them and prey on victims who are not protected properly online. Cyber crime is at such an all-time high, in fact, that the FBI has listed it as one of its top security threats.

Types of Computer Crimes

Cyberstalking: Similar to real-world stalkers, cyberstalkers attempt to monitor their victims' every move online. Cyberstalkers may attempt to illegally gain access to a person's computer to read their emails or track their online activities. They frequently harass their victims by contacting their friends, colleagues, online contacts, et al., to either defame them or to gain pertinent information about their personal and professional lives.

Identity Theft: Hackers and identity thieves gain access to your online bank or credit card information and then use this information to transfer funds or make purchases in your name. Tip: Immediately report suspicious charges on your ATM or credit cards to your bank or financial institution and only conduct transactions in a safe environment (making sure the website you visit is secure, for example).

Phishing: When hackers or identity thieves send phony but official-looking email from your bank or financial institution, trying to trick you into providing them with sensitive information, this is called phishing. Tip: Be wary of all emails that request personal information from you. If you're not sure whether or not a message is authentic, check with your bank or financial institution before opening it.

Non-Delivery of Merchandise:The FBI lists this as an online scam and recommends that you take certain steps to ensure the website from which you order merchandise is legitimate. Tip: Check with the Better Business Bureau and conduct an online search about said company to see what others are saying about it. In the event of fraud, you can file an online complaint with the FBI.

Harassment: Online harassment can consist of threats and repeated abusive emails or electronic communications that intend to harass or in some way harm the recipient. Cyberbullying is one notorious example, as incidents of children being bullied on social-networking sites continue to rise. Posting defamatory content online – whether on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, or elsewhere on the internet – can also constitute harassment.

Online Impostors: A few states have taken steps to outlaw impostors who pose as others online. (Sorry, that probably isn't the real George Clooney who just friended you on Facebook.) As Computer World has reported, everyone from the Dalai Lama to Shaquille O'Neal were victims of impersonators on Twitter.

Invasion of Privacy: Intruding into someone's personal life is against the law. Hacking and reading personal emails or monitoring a person's online activities, for example, constitute an invasion of privacy.

How to Protect Yourself
Because hackers and identity thieves learn new ways to infiltrate computers every day, it's important to make your computer as hacker- and identity theft-proof as possible. Anti-virus programs are useful and necessary, but don't always guard against all types of intrusions. One of the best ways to ensure your online transactions are safe – particularly online shopping and banking – is to subscribe to security programs that encrypt your transactions, thus barring any data interceptions from malware and malicious predators.