Most people who use the Internet on an everyday basis put some form of confidence and trust in it. Whether it’s entering sensitive credit card information on an online retailer, or simply writing something private to a friend on a social networking website, security and privacy are integral parts of the online experience. When that privacy is violated, people become more hesitant in using the Internet; when this happens on a wide scale, participation in websites that require personal details suffers greatly. This is precisely when maintaining security and privacy online should be a top priority for anyone using the Internet.
Identity fraud is one of the most common forms of security violations on the Internet, and it happens in many forms. An infamous method to compromise someone’s identity is phishing. This method consists of presenting a web interface or sending an e-mail that emulates another website, in order to compromise sensitive information or log-in credentials. For example, a phisher could setup a mirror-image of a bank’s log-in gateway that is an exact duplicate of the bank’s real website in every way. If someone happens upon this fake website and enters their bank information, it will be sent directly to the phisher, thus compromising the victim’s identity.
Phishers don’t only aim for the obvious targets such as bank accounts; they’ll also go for e-mail addresses as well. E-mail credentials can be even more valuable to phishers, as they can browse through a victim’s past e-mails to search for anything valuable that they can get their hands on. They can also change the password and security questions on a victim’s e-mail address, effectively locking victims out from any accounts they may have had attached to their e-mail address.
One of the best ways someone can prevent identity fraud and other hazards is getting the right combination of software tools to strengthen the layers of security on their computer. The first step should be getting a highly comprehensive antivirus software suite; this means not getting a free version, as they often lack the tools that premium antivirus software offers, such as firewalls. Utilizing the security plug-ins that web browsers offer is another way to strengthen security, especially plug-ins that are geared toward protection against phishing e-mails and websites.
A less known method of safeguarding online privacy is increasing anonymity with an anonymous VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN service acts as a firewall proxy between a person’s computer and the Internet, meaning their real identity, or IP address, is not exposed on the Internet, which inherently increases anonymity and privacy. It’s not especially difficult to find a reliable VPN service online, provided one researches reviews of the VPN provider before going and purchasing an account with them.
Using an anonymous VPN and updated antivirus program isn’t always enough to maintain online privacy; someone being well-informed and aware of the common pitfalls of the Internet that compromise privacy is the strongest tool in remaining secure. Paying attention to phishing warnings and new security threats is the best way to protect privacy.