5 Valentine’s Day Security Tips for Online Dating

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and as usual, the whole population is going to be divided into three parts. First we have the happily committed couples who can’t wait for Valentine’s Day to come around, and then there are the rest of the singles who just want to get the day over with. Finally, the third grouping are those individuals who take advantage of online companionship on dating sites and social networks offered on the internet. Now, while it’s absolutely nothing wrong with finding love online on Valentine’s Day, keep in mind that many people take to the internet to find love or friendship online in exceptionally large percentages on this day, making them targets for cybercriminals.

Cybercriminals use this opportunity to prey on these individuals and take advantage of their emotional loneliness, by pulling of cons or even petty crimes on online dating sites.

Here are five online security tips that you can adhere to so that such scams or cons don’t happen to you.

One for all

There are some scammers who tend to send generic messages to everyone at one time. That is to say, they “broadcast” the message for all to see, which is a method for them to capture the attention os as many victims as they can at one time. The messages are just bait; the “scam” actually occurs after they’ve gathered a list of replies, and those who do, are their targets.

How to spot such a message?

  • If you are contacted online by someone and they make no direct reference to you, then it is likely to be a broadcast message.
  • For instance they won’t mention you by your name, or even address you directly.
  • You can feel the artificial nature of the conversation.

Once you spot them, stay away from them.

Putting A Ring On It?

Its comical knowledge that men tend to run in the other direction when a girl talks about marriage, and women become skeptical when a guy talks about marriage; although not all men and women are like this, Hollywood likes to make a go of this stereotype. But when it comes to online dating, especially on Valentine’s Day, it pays to be skeptical and wary.

If you meet someone online, and they start talking about love, marriage and creating a family with you almost immediately, then you should stop talking to them right away. Finding love online is not impossible, but it requires time to get to know the person and become comfortable with them in order to begin talks about marriage. Valentine’s Day cybercriminals like to reel people in this way in order to victimize the person.

Money Talks

This is the most obvious sign of a con. Whenever someone wants some sort of money from you by giving you whatever reason, just walk away. These people will probably play it slow and let you know about how much suffering they are going through. They might even let you know that he/she can barely pay their bills to gain your sympathy. Once you fall for it, they will ask you to wire some sort of payment to their “secret” accounts. When you are done paying them you’ll never hear from them again.

Delayed Response

While being anonymous on online dating sites is actually kind of helpful, it does become hard to really know if a person is genuinely single or not. Often people in relationships or married couples,  tend to pretend to be single and try to “score” somebody. The quickest way to spot such people is to notice the time it takes them to reply. If they reply at late hours or even days later, then it is likely they are committed to somebody else and are probably having fun with you.

Usually the only time they have to talk online, is when their family or spouse is away, which is almost never if they are living together, hence, how long it takes them to reply.

Reveal only to the good

Online dating sites are open to all. It can and does include con men, convicts, psychopaths and even potential future criminals. For such reasons, never reveal too much personal information, especially your home or work address.

Other information can include the name of the schools or institutions your children attend. Giving out such information will make your children vulnerable if the person you are interacting with turns out to be a criminal. Even if you are meeting this person in the physical world, avoid giving out your address.

Meet up in public places and delay revealing your information until you are sure that the person is actually a good human being. Follow these steps and you’ll be set to find love online on lovers day.

Don’t let Valentine’s Day turn into a disaster. Oh, and don’t forget to buy some flowers.

 5 Ways to Achieve Internet Privacy

Data Breaches on the Rise

Many who may read this title would think the words Internet and privacy don’t necessarily go together in the sense that both are feasible to achieve simultaneously. However, we’ve got 9 steps that you can take to ensure that they are.

1) Cookies- The first step to achieve Internet privacy is simply removing cookies and site data by using private browsing. As many websites are prone to saving your information and IP address to understand the activities for their benefit, this can be quite risky as many of them might use that information without your consent, ultimately leading to the violation of your privacy. Enable private browsing in Internet Explorer, Google Chrome etc, this will avoid the storing of cookies through security features in these browsers.

2) Proxy- Use web proxies such as to hide your IP address. Your IP address can give away much of your information; your location, your browsing activity, your preferences. Enabling proxy settings in your browser will protect your IP address from being tracked.

3) VPN- Different from the proxy settings we discussed above, VPN services are network based protection services you can take advantage of in order to protect your IP address, whereas proxy settings are completely browser based. We discuss this in detail on this post. You should be aware of public WiFi areas and accessing websites that require passwords while using those publix networks. It is also advisable to beware of file sharing in these areas as well.

4) Log Out- Social networking sites and other similar networks track your activities while you are logged in. For advertising purposes for example, Facebook will track the activity you take part in on other open tabs; shopping searches, recent purchases, and recently viewed items online are all cached into your account’s “back office” where programs work to try and provide them with relevant and personally interesting content on their timelines and ads. in the process, your privacy is revoked. So, log out of your accounts before you open new tabs and search online.

5)  Google Yourself- People are increasingly searching their own names online and with good reason. Your information can slip through the cracks of your security measures and land on search engine results and thats something you don’t want. Periodically searching your name will show you any data that may be associated with you that has been leaked. Photos, documents, articles, profiles; often social media sites may automatically set certain things your post to “public”, or you may click it unknowingly. You’ll only know what’s out there if you look for it. Once you find it, you can proceed with removing the data from public databases by using these tips:

Follow these steps and you’ll be closer to keeping your identity safe from predators online and taking back control from “fine-print” terms and condition agreements.

Our Guide to Navigating TOR

When it comes to browsing safely and securely, who can we rely on other than our very own Onion Router (TOR). Internet is becoming the life and soul of modern living; it is also becoming insecure and risky, as large scale surveillances by NSA are taking over. So, to save you from such activities, TOR has come up with a system which is secretly routing your Internet history on other parts of the Internet so that no one can track down your identity or the real source of your browsing.

However, just having TOR installed on your computer won’t guarantee you a safe browsing experience. It is crucial to know how to use it properly, as actions taken within the program can mean the difference between creating a complicated user experience and disabling the program from protecting you altogether.

The Do’s

A few things should be taken into consideration when working with TOR:

  • In order for it to function fully, you should always update your system at all times. TOR is a software fully functioning on top of your operating system, if your system is not fully updated and functional, then hackers can easily take over your computer and disable TOR.
  • Try not to use Windows, as it has certain security bugs and vulnerabilities which might lead to TOR not being able to be fully functional.
  • It should be noted that TOR is only a traffic router, and it will only be able to hide the root of your communication. It can only do this from within your network.
  • The exit nodes of the TOR networks can only read plain unencrypted data; always using end-to-end encryption such as SSL or TLS and using add-ons like HTTPS everywhere is crucial.

Online privacy should be a top priority for any Internet user, so do use TOR, for in this era, no one can be trusted when it comes to internet safety.

There are a few other techniques that need to be performed with TOR,  such as encrypting data storage, disabling flash and java, deleting cookies and local data of the site. Always try to use data protection services so that you are protected from certain threats, as TOR can only hide your Internet’s origin, not the data in your computer.

Software like JavaScript might not be very reliable; they are very powerful and their websites can track you in many ways.

It’s a good idea to try and remove the cookies and site data; websites might have hidden terms or clauses that make it legal for them to store your browsing history on their servers, facilitating their ability to pinpoint your location. If manually doing this becomes a hassle, invest in an add on like self-maintaining cookies and your security is restored!

Things Not to Do

There are a few crucial things you should not do when working with TOR on your computer.

  • Don’t use the TOR browser bundle as it is not at all reliable (FBI has recently taken down Freedom Hosting due to faults in the browser).
  • Avoid P2P, as it is not meant for sharing files; downloading torrent through BitTorrent might prevent TOR from doing its work, (the exit nodes are there to stop the file sharing) and it will make it unable to protect your identity, because the client of the torrent uses your IP address for the tracker and the peers.
  • Lastly, try to avoid Google as it uses the user’s information for the growth of its revenue. Use alternatives such as Startpage and DuckDuckGo, and while you use them and TOR, please don’t give your real email address. As it is your REAL email address,  you will kind of be giving away all your information by yourself.

Try to be safe. Internet safety is of utmost importance in this era, and you never know who is tracking and doing harm to unsuspecting users. Follow these rules, because just installing the software won’t provide a full security experience, much like setting an alarm on your clock but not turning it on, won’t offer a fully functional experience.

 

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Cybercrime Affects Airline Flights

Cyber crime is usually noted as being limited to harassment, the theft of financial information or the infiltration of viruses into the victims computer. However, recently cyber crime has veered off into a realm with no precedent on how to legally tackle the issue; the airline industry.

In the past three days a series of violent and threatening tweets have surfaced aimed directly at airliners and particular flights; these tweets have resulted in the diversion of flights across the board and panic among national security officials. The red issue at hand here, however, is not the tweets themselves, but rather the inability of officials to do anything about the situation.

Recent years have seen many cyber crimes end in a non-satisfactory manner, as the US currently does not have many laws in place regarding such internet offenses. With no cyber crime precedents to go by, its not only hard to convict someone, but its hard to pinpoint where and who these tweets come from.

The most recent tweet read, “Guys, flight 321 and 334 have explosives on board and you don’t care? It’s going to be funny watching them fall out of the sky.” But the past 72 hours have been witness to many more hair raising threats.

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Over the weekend a few flights were diverted, some even forced to make unexpected landings in airports with crew and officials fearing that there were bombs and explosives onboard. Atlanta in particular, was one of the cities with the most activity, having two of its flights escorted by fighter jets to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. At least one more flight was escorted to Orlando.

The threats are expected to continue and get worse before the problem is resolved. Most of these accounts cannot be traced or proven to come from any one particular person or one particular location. Many officials are leaning toward a verification system that would require certain information before an individual can create a Twitter, Google Plus or Facebook account; hinting at possible monitoring of civilian populations.

We brought you a previous article regarding a new national security plan that could possibly be used for things of this nature if written into law. Under this new plan, the government would offer companies such as these social media giants and commerce sites to share consumer information with them in exchange for a liability package that would reduce their chances of being sued by consumers for breach of privacy.

As these airline threats continue, its hard to tell if laws may be set into place that monitor the activities of civilians in order to keep the skies safe from attacks. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from history, whenever crime outwits the times, precedents must be set, laws rewritten and new concepts introduced for the sake of National Security.

Should these new measures take place, consumers can protect themselves from severe intrusions using simple VPN support and software that can protect your IP information and your computer from intruders.

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Cybercriminals Re-Engage Dridex to Steal Banking Credentials

Cyber criminals will always be targeting institutions that will offer them profit; whether its stealing actual funds or stealing financial information and selling it forward. With tens of malware and virus applications that design daily, the current threat is Dridex; a malware designed using a notorious technique last seen in the early 2000s. Using it, malware can take advantage of the macros function is Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Word and Excel’s Macros function integrates commands and instructions into a singular task, making it an indispensable feature. Users get superb shortcuts for frequently performed activities vis Macros, but as appealing as it may be, it is extremely susceptible to attacks from cyber criminals who use this as a tool to let Dridex infiltrate your personal computer.

Where is Dridex Hidden?

Dridex comes hidden with attachments in malicious emails that appear as invoices or financial documents from real life companies worthy of your trust. Upon opening the attachment, you are recommended to use macros to view the information. This is where you stomp on your own foot. By enabling macros on the document, you are inadvertently allowing Dridex to be downloaded on your personal computer. Dridex is usually kept hidden in Microsoft Word documents, but it can also be stored in other formats.

In short, Dridex can hit you from anywhere, sometimes from places where you least expect it to. For instance, before being shifted to Microsoft Word, Dridex was spread by executables by email.

Why is Dridex so Dangerous?

Your first question, which is a legitimate one, would probably be “What makes Dridex a major threat to our personal computers?”  The answer is that Dridex is designed to tap into your online bank information and steal your online banking credentials. Every time you log into your bank account, the hidden Dridex is activated in full form. HTML fields are created by Dridex, where you are asked to insert additional information such as your security number. This is an example of MITB or man-in-browser-attack.

MITB attacks are dangerously deceptive. Nothing looks suspicious or even out of the ordinary with these attacks. The URL that users view in the address bar makes it very clear to them that they are logged in on their legitimate banking account. If you do not have extensive knowledge about these attacks, you will be easily deceived into revealing your personal information via additional fields. Once you have typed in the precious information, cyber criminals will have complete access your online banking credentials. They will also possess other forms of information that you may have revealed in the process of filling up the additional fields. The safety of your information is now entirely jeopardized.

How to Combat Cyber Criminals?

Cyber criminals are either coming up with new tactics or bringing back the old ones to contaminate your PC with malware. As a result, it is imperative for you as a user to take the necessary precautions that will keep you well out of their reach. The following is a list of important advice that will guide you on how you can keep your PC protected from malware that steals your banking credentials.

1) Detect Spam Emails

You must keep an eye out for malware infection or phishing emails. As mentioned before, you will be tricked into unknowingly downloading malicious attachments or opening malicious links that seem as if they have come from a legitimate company. If these emails try to create an unnecessary or unexplained sense of urgency or curiosity, then become cautious immediately. Do not jump into performing all the requested actions.

2) Be Wary of Microsoft Documents

You may think that Microsoft Documents are the safest things in the world, but they aren’t. The ones that require you to enable macros may turn out to damage your computer and attack your personal data. Whenever a mail asks you to enable macros, get on the alert as soon as possible. Not all macros cause harm, however you need to remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

3) Safeguard Your PC Adequately

Your PC cannot do without basic security. Firewall and anti-virus software is the least that you can do for your computer. Ensure that these are kept active and updated as often as possible. When it comes to protecting your computer from malware, you need to beef up your security a little more. What you need is a security system that has the ability to analyze files in a cloud environment. In this way, every file that is considered to be potentially malicious will be scanned and stopped in the cloud. Your PC will not be affected and your banking credentials will be locked up safely.

Following these steps and armed with this knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to protect your banking information.