Rake Narang: Which types of users are most susceptible to online fraud and identity theft?
Brendan Ziolo: All users are susceptible to online identity theft. However, younger adults are particularly susceptible due to their heavy use of social networking sites and sharing of information. However , if you learn about how criminals can steal your identity, you’ll be better protected. This includes not clicking on links in emails or opening attachments, not sharing information online that can lead to identity theft, ensuring your computers are fully protected including using an additional layer of protection against online identity theft. The more educated and proactive users are in protecting themselves means they’ll be less susceptible to online identity theft.
Rake Narang: How is the growing popularity of smartphones and mobile Internet devices creating further threats of identity theft?
Brendan Ziolo: Basically, these new devices provide criminals with a new vector of attack. And while these attacks are not yet common, the more popular the device, the more likely criminals will find a way to exploit it.
Rake Narang: What can consumers do to immediately protect their personal information stored on their computers? And what pro-active prevention steps can consumers take to remain safe in the long run?
Brendan Ziolo: To protect personal information stored on your computers, you need to take the following steps on all computers in your home network:
- Install up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software on all the computers in your home. Cybercriminals always target the weakest link, so it is not enough to only have it running or updated on only one of the computers.
- Ensure all the patches for your operating system and other software programs are regularly installed and kept up-to-date.
- Configure and enable firewall programs or devices to stop uninvited access to your computers.
- Ask your ISP if they have a security layer that analyses your network traffic to provide protection when your anti-virus and other security precautions fail to keep your personal information safe. This network-based security service provides an additional layer of protection against identity theft and other online threats.
Rake Narang: What steps can any consumer whose computer has already been compromised take to become secured again and prevent further online threats?
Brendan Ziolo: If your computer has already been compromised then the installed security software may also be compromised. That’s why it’s important to have a security layer that analyses your network traffic to provide an additional layer of protection against identity theft and other online threats. If your computer has been compromised, you should download one of the temporary online scanners that are available from a number of the anti-virus vendors. This tool will detect and remove threats that could have compromised your existing anti-virus software. Once you have removed the threat, then you should update your OS, plug-ins and applications. And finally, you should update and/or re-install your anti-virus protection to prevent further threats. There are services available to help fix computers that may have already been compromised or if these tools don’t clean the problem initially.
Rake Narang: What advice would you give travelers who may be using public wi-fi and other connectivity service at airports and restaurants to connect their personal computers online but may not always have the time and seriousness to download and install security updates and other patches at that moment?
Brendan Ziolo: Unfortunately, the best precaution to take when using public wi-fi is to not login to any site that asks for your user name and password. While many sites, may encrypt the initial login the rest of the session may be open and criminals could sniff some personal information and/or hijack your account. If you are going to login to one of your accounts, including banking, email and social media, you need to be absolutely sure the entire session is encrypted from the moment you log on to when you log off. You also need to be careful that the public wi-fi access point is actually from the organization you think as it could be a hacker close-by that has setup a fraudulent access point and is using it to capture your information.