Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Basic Guide to Online Safety

In this growing age of machines, technology and internet, it has been often argued that it gives an option to make life easier and less arduous for its users on various counts but then also leaves a dilemma of preying eyes, stalkers, unwanted visitors and, more importantly, hackers.

Yep, we have taken an off course from our usual stuff because we think this is one thing that cannot and should not be ignored by users of the internet world, also known as the virtual world, and we have a responsibility towards it.

It is true that the more time you spend on this user-friendly virtual world, the more you are increasing the possibility of getting exposed, or let us put it this way, you are presenting others with an opportunity to get hold off your important and confidential items.

Unfortunately, the trouble is you can't completely eradicate the problem of hacking as they treat the internet as a play-area for themselves and they don't want to stop at anything. Perhaps they've taken the maxim of “sky-is-the-limit” in the sense that it has become a bit of a pain for us. The only consolation is that we can reduce the chances of getting hacked, by some of our gold-old tricks to prevent the exposure that we shudder to think about. But before we get to those gold-old tricks, first look at the ways some people write their passwords, making them even more vulnerable.

Recently, we came across a finding that highlighted the problem by giving us a list of some worst passwords that one can have for their online accounts. They are:

  • 123456
  • 12345678
  • 1234567
  • 111111
  • 123123
  • abc123
  • trustno1
  • password
  • passw0rd
  • sunshine
  • shadow
  • master
  • superman
  • dragon
  • letmein
  • iloveyou
  • football
  • baseball
  • qwerty
  • qazwsx

Good that we got something like this, letting us know where to start from if we want to minimise the risks that are, and let me reiterate it, imminent. So just make sure you don't have these, frankly, uncreative set of worst passwords one can think of.

However, the tip doesn't end here. This is from where it actually starts.

You and I can't ignore nor discount the threat a social networking site brings to our lives. Nowadays, a person with questionable intentions will just have to search for your good-name and bingo, there he goes with all what he wants to know about you. It may all not look too threatening, but bring in hacking into the equation and there we are talking about him being able to access in and out of your profile as many times as he wants. Just imagining the worse is disturbing, let alone what the consequences of losing your data may be.

  • So first thing that we consider that makes a user vulnerable is “display pictures” that you have on your social networking sites. Like it or not, especially to our female readers, it's your profile images that makes things uncomfortable with those desperate souls to pry on you. So take your personal image off of your social networking profile and get something that is more vague to sickos yet relevant to your friends. Studies have shown it’s the display-pictures that attract unwanted attention to you.

  • Though we think it’s needless to say, but still there are several of those profiles on social networking sites that haven't activated privacy settings to bar people from viewing their personal possessions that they put up so fondly, only to realise later that there is something terribly wrong with every other person sending them “wanna-frandship-with-me” requests. Activate privacy settings, they are there for a purpose and if you want real privacy, we recommend that you put up your information to bare minimum. It’s not that you are going to get the “best-profile-award” either by telling about yourself everything. After all, this new quotation best describes about social networking sites, “In a services transaction, if you are not selling and you are not paying to use the service, you are the thing being sold.”

  • The other very good advice while keeping passwords is that keep longer ones, preferably eight-character passwords and add in a few numbers and special characters to make the password a difficult thing for the hackers to crack. Having said that, it won't entirely make things picture perfect for you but if anything it would make it that much difficult for the crackers to crack the nut. In short, a small and alphabetical password makes life easier for you to remember but it does the same for the hackers as well.

  • It may sound a bit daft to say but look it any way, your email accounts, bank accounts, social networking accounts and any account of any nature that you have on the internet is actually a “public” place. Trust me, it is a public place. It is an open secret that whatever you see, write or read on the internet is actually being monitored by someone. You may as well be spied but the point is, your personal information is constantly monitored, manipulated and then finally filtered. One small example of it is that your search result will most likely to be different than the one sitting next to you, searching the same exact thing, at the same exact time that you've searched on. Suggestions? Clear up your browser’s history regularly (preferably weekly) because your dear-to-life social networking sites have been found tracking and selling cookies on your PC to third parties so that they can place ads according to your browsing preferences. Make sure you don't have sensitive emails in your inbox either and don't leave your laptops/PCs unattended for too long. In a present day scenario, with wireless networking, one may not find it too difficult to get into your hard-disk without even touching your dear laptop.

  • On the subject of passwords, different findings have found out and even normal interaction with internet-users has revealed that people tend to have the same password for all their personal accounts. For example, if they have one password for Hotmail, they'll have the same for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and even for their online banking accounts. Just imagine, if an evil-doer manages to break in to one of your accounts, you have actually ended up risking a lot, especially given the time one spends these days on their computers. Have different passwords and if you find it difficult to remember passwords, then keep a small chit in your wallet or in a drawer at home, for the day when your memory turns unfaithful.

Apart from the threats of hackers and stalkers, evidently there are a few other dangers that have off late come to every one's attention and that is your activity being tracked through the internet, that we touched on briefly in our blog. Perhaps the video at the end of the blog might explain how deep the mess is and how sinister it can be. You've been warned, take measures to protect yourself and those around you as it is advisable in today's world to “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”.


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