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Protecting Yourself from Cybercrime

In George Orwell’s 1984, there was a device called a telescreen. Every citizen had to own one. It was always on, 24 hours a day, unless you are among one of the privileged, elite party members who could shut if off briefly. The news and propaganda were continuously delivered through the telescreen, and it operated two ways. It was also a surveillance device, and you didn’t always know when you were being observed. For example, the main character, Winston Smith was engaging in a required daily calisthenics program when the instructor on the screen suddenly called him out and exhorted him to try harder to touch his toes. In 2018 we have a version of the fictional telescreen, which we watch, and it watches us back.

Your laptop, PC, or handheld device is a marvelous tool which offers the world’s knowledge, and entertainment, a way to buy goods and services or sell them, download music, videos, software, or documents, communicate with friends, family, and colleagues across the world in real time, and join online communities with common interests. It is also a window into your life, where you can be watched, your sensitive or personal information can be stolen, your bank account can be vacuumed out, or small amounts you don’t notice skimmed off, your children can be approached by sexual predators, and where illegal goods and services can be bought or sold, or the most heinous aspects of human behavior can be displayed.

Cybercrime refers to criminal acts committed with the aid of a computer. Cybercrime can include:

  1. Hacking
    Someone will gain unauthorized access to information on your computer, or control your computer.
  2. Sextortion
    Sexual photos of yourself you posted somewhere on line will be shared without your permission if you do not pay a fee.
  3. Ransomware
    You will visit a site, and your computer will be locked until you pay a fee.
  4. Unwarranted mass surveillance
    You will be watched through your webcam, or your emails or social media postings will be examined.
  5. Espionage
    Sensitive government or corporate information will be accessed.
  6. Theft and embezzlement
    Funds will be diverted or misappropriated.
  7. Scams
    Promises of profits or products will be offered for an investment or a fee.
  8. Red Rooms are straight out of a horror movie. A Red Room is a live feed where a person is raped and tortured. Viewers send in suggestions to the torturer/rapist. While some of these sites are fake, others are apparently real.
  9. The Dark Web
    A place generally not accessible through Google or other mainstream search engines, where you can buy pirated movies, music, software, or drugs, weapons, prostitutes and find illegal pornography.
  10. Malware propagation
    Viruses, worms, and Trojans are distributed.
  11. Child grooming
    Sexual predators contact children and young teens in chat-rooms and lure them for meetings.
  12. Prostitution
  13. Illegal gambling

20 ways to Protect Yourself from Cybercrime:

  1. Have the highest quality anti-malware virus on the market with real time protection. Good choices include AVG or Avira.
  2. Have the highest quality antimalware protection without real time protection as a backup. Running two redundant anti-malware programs with real time protection can make your system freeze if both programs grab the same virus and get into a tug-of-war over it.
  3. Keep your updates and patches current
  4. Use a firewall
  5. Use a spam blocker
  6. Use strong, complex passwords which combine upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
  7. Use different passwords for each password protected site you use.
  8. Change your passwords frequently.
  9. Password protect and encrypt specific sensitive files.
  10. Back up to an XHD (External Hard Drive) and at least two redundant, separately stored thumb drives.
  11. Keep your device secured and don’t leave it unattended.
  12. Minimize the amount of sensitive information you keep on your device. Offload what you can to a thumb drive or XHD and keep it in a safe place.
  13. Opt out of people finders. The amount of information available about all of us is truly disturbing. Opt out of the big people finders and your privacy will infiltrate the others, as many people finders mine data from other people finders.
  14. Use an encrypted browser, such a Tor, or a high privacy browser such as Startpage
  15. Use available security and privacy add-on’s for Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer.
  16. Put a piece of tape over your camera lens when you are not using it.  
  17. Before investing on-line, do some research to make sure you are dealing with a legitimate site.
  18. Learn about common scams and avoid them.
  19. Be wary of what sites you visit. Don’t open the door to predators. This is the same as letting a stranger into your house at night.
  20. Don’t explore the dark web. Exposure to real-life criminal victimization often occurs when engaging in high risk behaviors. The dark web is like a biker bar. Stay out if you are a civilian.