Credit Card

Concerned About Identity Theft? Freeze your Credit Reports.

While cyber crimes rise, the actual percentages of the probability of someone’s identity being stolen remains relatively low. However, anyone who has experienced such an unfavorable event, knows all too well that being overly cautious is never a bad idea.

The rise and cyber crimes have resulted in a new option for individuals trying to secure their identities from hackers and thieves. Introducing Security Credit Freeze!

What is a Security Credit Freeze?

A security credit freeze is the act of freezing all of your credit report history and credit information for a set period of time. During this time, no one can access your credit report or any type of credit information in regards to your personal identity. This system was devised to assist people in keeping their identities safe from those who would like to open new accounts in their names.

And example of this would be someone who has your personal information like your name, date of birth, and Social Security number, who goes to a store to open a credit card in your name. Someone with this information could also make larger purchases that could ruin your credit like buying a house or a car under your name.

While you can’t stop someone from stealing your information altogether, you can reduce their ability to use that information. In order to open a credit account under anyone’s name, the issuing company has to do a credit check on the individual applying for credit; if a credit freeze has been activated, all of your credit information will disappear from the servers, and no one will be able to access a credit report, leaving the thief unable to open a new fraudulent account.

How to Freeze your Credit Report

Activating a credit report freeze is not an easy task. There maybe some fees involved and a few complications along the way. But generally, you must contact the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

When contacting the bureaus, expect for them to ask for your personal information such as your name, your address, your date of birth, and your Social Security number. Feel free to divulge this information, as you can trust the individuals at the credit bureaus. The attending representative may also ask you for other details.

Fees and filing requirements will vary by state; you can visit their websites for each credit bureau for more information.
The Ins and Outs of Freezing your Credit

According to recent searches, the fees for freezing your credit range between five dollars and $10. However, individuals over the age of 65 qualify for a discount. Alternately, if you have already been a victim of identity theft, these bureaus will freeze your credit report for you free of charge.

Once your credit freeze has been activated, the bureau will give you a personal identification pin, you must retain this for your records it as this will be the only way for you to unfreeze your credit report when you are ready.

Deactivating your credit report freeze requires a small fee, usually about $10 and this fee varies according to the rules and regulations of your state.

Should You Freeze Your Credit?

The fees may not seem to hefty on a step-by-step basis, but if you allow them to accumulate they can be a real burden. It is essential that you accurately plan out your steps so that you know exactly how much you will be paying once the process is completely over.

Once you choose to lift your credit freeze, be aware that this can be a lengthy process that can take upwards of five working days. In the meantime, if you have acquired new credit cards or accounts you can do a few things to reduce the possibility of a hacker stealing your card information:

  • Do not opt to save credit card information on your browser fields
  • Invest in a VPN service like Hide-my-IP,  that can divert your IP address and protect your computer’s location from hackers
  • Do not keep your credit card numbers and information saved on files on the computer, it is always best to keep a hand written notebook with all of your private information in a safe

Despite the many stumbles and hassles that you will face along the way, freezing your credit is a fail proof method of keeping your money safe and secure from the wicked hands of the hackers.

social networking tree

5 Tips on How to use Social Media Correctly

Social media is a big part of our daily lives, it wasn’t even this way 10 years ago. However, using social media can have adverse effects on the lives of the people using them. With comprised 5 tips on how to use social media correctly, to limit the possibility of social media becoming a problem in your life.

Social media is not all bad, many of us have benefited from the technology being able to find old friends, connect with long lost family members, and create new friends along the way. Social media has also amplified the way advertisers and companies connect with their users and have aided in the pinpointing their target audiences. However, information shared on social media can hurt us in the following ways, and we have ideas on how to limit them.

#1 Your posts shouldn’t be hurtful or insulting.

Your posts on forums like Facebook and Twitter reflect your thinking and personality. While you are certainly entitled to your opinions and to share them, you must keep in mind that your posts might hurt or insult others. It can also give employers a negative opinion about you if the majority of your posts are of a negative perspective.

Friendships have been broken due to people posting hurtful comments on social sites. Avoid doing or saying anything online that can offend your friends, or posting a vague analysis of a similar situation they may be going through with negative comments. More often than not, everyone knows who you’re talking about and it can only end badly.

#2 Understand privacy settings and use them effectively.

Most social sites have effective privacy settings, yet, most of the users don’t understand how to use the privacy options. Privacy settings can be used to limit your audience, i.e. who can see your posts. It is advisable that you read the privacy setting terms and use those to your advantage.

However, you must realize that your posts can then be shared. For example, your friend may take a screenshot of a private post and publish it publicly. And that brings us to the next point.

#3 Practice caution about what you reveal about yourself online.

Your personal life is your own. If there are certain aspects of your life that you don’t want others to know about, don’t share it on the social media. Most social media sites require you to put in your name, birthday, etc., but you can choose who to share this information with, as mentioned earlier. So it is in your hands how much you want to reveal about yourself and with whom. If you don’t trust an app with your information, don’t use that app.

Remember that any information that you share publicly can be found online by anyone. Someone wishing to harm you may be able to find your social media profile and share it negatively.

#4 Make the most of private messages or emails for personal communications.

If there is something you want to talk to your friend about without letting the entire world know, use the personal messaging services. Most social media websites are equipped with a personal messaging system or chat options.

Always navigate the site and get to know it’s public, private, and messaging settings before you post anything to make sure that you know exactly where it will be going. There was an incident that went viral regarding a woman and her date. After steamy night, she sent her date a message explaining how she felt and used a lot of inappropriate language; however, she did not write it in the message at all, she unknowingly posted to his Facebook wall where everyone could see. Eventually it was posted all over the Internet and this will hunt this woman for the rest of her life.

#5 Dictate how people can find you online.

Most social media websites give you the option to choose how people online can find you, for example via email address, phone number, etc. You can limit the amount of people who can search for using your email address. The sites also have an option to allow your profile to be found on search engines. If you prefer to reduce your online footprint, you can set this option to no. Alternately you can set your proxy settings on your web browser or invest in a VPN service  like Hide MY IP, to further limit who can access your true location and benefit from accessing your information. Remember to set your location settings on a social networking sites to decide whether or not your location appears alongside your status update.

Your personal life can be affected by your online presence on social media websites. Therefore, use privacy settings and post personal information and opinions sparingly.

How Do IP Addresses Work?

25 Things the Server Knows About You

Did you know that when you visit a website, the server gets to know a lot of things about you? There is a constant series of information exchanged between the server and your browser, and this system exchange was designed to improve your experience on the website by providing all necessary data to the server and allowing it to adjust accordingly. But our browsers aren’t that careful with who it shares this information with; whenever the data is requested by a server, it provides.

So for example,  if your browser communicates with a tracking company, they can easily gain all the information about your location without you even knowing it.

The type of content you’re reading and searching for online can be reproduced using what is called a “browser fingerprint”, this makes an advertisement profile for you, which advertisers use to display ads on the various websites you visit. This information is also communicated through the server.

Below are a list of 25 things that the web server gets to know about you from your browser when you visit the website, and what these mean in laymen’s terms. Note that there are many more, but these are some of the most important, and may vary from device to device and from server to server.

  1. Accepted File Types – What types of files does your browser accept?
  2. ActiveX – Can your computer run the interactive technology of Microsoft?
  3. Ajax Support – Can your computer run the development language Ajax?
  4. Bandwidth – How much data can be transferred through your connection?
  5. Browser – What internet browser are you using? (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc.)
  6. Connections – In what ways does the web page communicate with the parent server?
  7. Cookies – A file saved for easy access. Contains a major chunk of information about the user.
  8. Central Processing Unit – A computer hardware that carries out commands from software.
  9. CSS – What type of CSS can your browser use to visually customize a web page?
  10. DirectX – Does your computer support a programing language associated with multimedia tasks?
  11. Do Not Track – An indication of whether a user has disabled all tracking applications or not.
  12. .NET Framework – Does your browser support a Windows based software framework?
  13. Email Verification – Is the email address you submitted valid?
  14. Flash – Does your computer support a multimedia based technology for playing videos?
  15. Gecko – Is your computer and browser compatible with the free, open source software that is used to make web apps?
  16. Geo Location – The exact geographic location of the device you are connecting from.
  17. IP Address – A number-based network address for your connection.
  18. JAVA & JAVA Script – Does your computer and browser support these two programming languages?
  19. Online/Offline – Is your internet connection active or not?
  20. Open DNS – A service that modifies your Domain Name System to better protection, correction of wrong info, etc.
  21. Plugin – What are the different add-ons installed in your browser.
  22. Proxy – Are you browsing directly or through a transitional browser?
  23. Personal Security Manager – A state consisting of libraries used for cryptographic operations on the client or application’s behalf.
  24. WAP Device – Is your device communicating over a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)? It is used usually for accessing internet from mobile devices.
  25. WebKit – Does your browser support a component of the layout engine software used for rendering web pages in the browser?

In short, these are the major marks of communication that your browser uses to speak a server. As you can see, large parts of your information, activity, and browsing history are kept and shared without discrimination with servers, so if there is a hacker on the other end, they too will receive the same information.

You can reduce this intrusion by investing in a VPN service, which will keep your IP address safe from hackers. Your IP address is what mainly makes up your profile, as it is a unique number that represents your location, ISP provider and who you are.

Why Do Men and Women Browse Anonymously?

How to Reduce the Risk of Phishing Emails

You may have heard about the word “phishing” and confused it with fishing. Most people don’t know how to reduce the risk of phishing emails, because they don’t know what phishing really is; as a result they become victims of this low-grade hacking trick.

So, What Is “Phishing”?

Confusing the word fishing with the word phishing isn’t that embarrassing, as the two have a lot in common; they both require the baiting of a catch with enticing items. And when it comes to email phishing, the sender will bait the recipient into clicking an interesting link in the email, this link is designed to download a harmful file onto your device. If a file is not downloaded, it means that the phishing tactic was most likely used to steal your information and pass it onto third parties.

Phishing emails trap many individuals because they appear to come from trustworthy and authentic sources, often using bank names or made to appear like a shipment notification messages.

In many cases, the phisher will stalk your activity online for weeks before planting a bait link in an email addressed to you. They will take on an invisible personality but track everything you do, as you do it.

The Dangers of Phishing Emails

Whenever you click on the bait link or you’re taking to a screen that requires you to type in personal information, your data is recorded. In the case where harmful files are downloaded to your computer, they’re usually in the form of keyboard trackers. This will record your activity across the web for weeks after you’ve clicked on the bait link; you may notice that immediately after clicking on the link, you will not notice any changes or witness any type of suspicious activity. This is because these downloaded files are meant to be stealthy and are running in the background without you seeing them.

Keyboard tracking files will track all of the personal information you type into fields for accounts you regularly use. This can be your logins and passwords for bank accounts, merchant stores, social accounts and more. Slowly it will start gathering all of your information and once the phisher has enough of it, they can proceed with stealing your identity or engaging in malicious activity.

How Do I Protect Myself From Phishing Emails?

Now before you think that there’s no way of saving yourself from the trap of phishing emails, let’s be assured that there are some preventive measures.

  • Install an antivirus. Keeping your device safe from harmful files is always a good idea and can be an instrumental part while trying to prevent phishing. So install one or more good antivirus engines and update them regularly. Ensure that your entire device is being scanned by the antivirus manually or automatically at least once a week.
  • Update your web browser. Most of the time, we don’t care about updating our web browsers, like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. However this is indeed very necessary. Check for updates on a regular basis and install them alongside any patches. This will provide better internet security for you.
  • Suspiciously Unexpected Email? Don’t fall for it. Got an email from someone you don’t know? Getting a gut feeling that something is wrong in this email? Well, simply don’t open any links or attachments on it. Sometimes when a person’s account gets phished by malwares, automatic messages go out to their contact list. So even if you get an odd message from a trusted friend, don’t download anything. Rather, contact your friend first to check whether he/she really sent that email or not. Got an email from a familiar company? Call to confirm the authenticity of the email before clicking on any external links.
  • Safeguard your private information. As mentioned earlier, phishers often stalk you before sending you malicious emails. Therefore, keep your private information as private as possible. Things like your address, phone number or date of birth should not be posted publicly. You should also enhance the privacy settings in your social networking accounts so that potential phishers don’t get any information regarding you that they can use at a later time.
  • Invest in a VPN service or set your browser’s proxy settings to enabled, in order to safeguard you IP location, which in many cases, is linked to saved browsing history and information fields.

Phishing messages are so abundant and anyone can fall victim to this. So take some preventive steps and reduce the risks of becoming a victim of phishing emails.

 

Internet Security Tips for Businesses

How Cybercrimes have Changed our World

While Internet users search the web for facts and current news relating to the war on terror, they may be riding oblivious to the war on cyber criminals that goes on behind-the-scenes. In The 21st-century it is evident that we have developed into a society where cyberspace is crucial for the economic and social development of the world, as cyber attacks become more sophisticated and abundant, it is threatening the very infrastructure on which we’ve placed all of our economic faith.

Identity Verifications have become Intense

There used to be a time where cyber crimes were predominantly confined to the harassment of individual families and people. However, as the prospect of more damaging leaks and revenue is heightened with every multimillion dollar company that is hacked, cyber criminals have a developed A new method of activity that is increasingly more difficult to track and prevent.

For example, every day activities have become more guarded including the purchase of goods at merchants with your debit or credit card. Some stores have even resorted to asking for two forms of identity before allowing an individual to make a purchase.

The verification process of creating new emails and online account has also increased in security. Online accounts didn’t ask for email verification in the past, however, now, they not only ask for email verification in the form of clicking a link within an email they sent to your registered email address, but some hosts also asked to verify your identity using a phone number. Many sites that experience increased criminal activity, such as craigslist, will asked to verify via a phone number that is registered to a contract cell phone carrier, avoiding the possibility of registration using a non-traceable, prepaid phone.

These verifications have also infiltrated the income tax realm, now, there are services provided by the IRS for individuals to register with a unique pin code that will prevent the possibility of other individuals filing taxes using their social security numbers without their knowledge.

Banking has Changed

Our banking systems and activities have also changed due to cyber criminal activity. Where some banking institutions have implemented greater security measures to ensure that their customers’ finances are secure, other institutions have created less risky alternatives to using debit and credit cards all together.

More shoppers are returning to services such as PayPal and Google Wallet, which stores their financial information securely so that they can make purchases through the portals of these services without ever having to reveal their card information.

Most of the internet users are completely unaware of how dangerous cyber crime can turn out to be. They have little knowledge about the ways in which cyber crime is conducted and the implications that it can have in their lives and society. Many of them have perhaps never even heard of terms such as Botnets, Trojans, SQL injections and DDos attack. If you are one of them, well there’s no reason to panic or feel confused. Understand that the internet itself is in a constant fight against cyber crime, and the more you ignore the struggle, the stronger the criminals will become. Courtesy of the negligence of people, we can say for sure that more computers and wireless devices are going to suffer from the ill effects of cyber crime. What happens in the aftermath? Well, companies can go out of business. Confidential information can be revealed. Lives may well be ruined. You may find yourself in the middle of a “terrorist” attack plot. The possibilities are endless.

History Repeats Itself

The concept of history repeating itself is one of the truest things in life. For example, when the United States, as a young country, began creating their laws, they did so without the future’s advances in mind. At the time no one could foresee that the Internet would be invented, that all men would be free regardless of race and color, and that freedom of religion would expand past just Christian denominations.

The same can be said for the creation of the Internet. It was created without the foresight of security at its forefront. Just as legislators are scrambling to activate laws that can protect people from cyber crimes, Internet institutions are also scrambling to find better ways to protect and secure Internet pathways from criminals.

It is likely that some companies have not grasped the sheer magnitude of these new security issues; which is, in part, why advancement in the security field is so slow going. However, you can still do your part to protect yourself using various methods that are currently available to you. One of which, is investing in a VPN service that will protect your IP address from any programs, websites, or applications they’re trying to use it for malicious purposes.