The evils of the internet and how to protect yourself from them.
We’ve all heard about the dangers lurking on the internet, but many “everyday internet users” are unaware what the different threats are, how to spot an internet scam, and how to protect yourself from scams and malware.
So here is a basic beginner’s guide to internet security.
First up, you should have a decent firewall / anti-virus installed on your devices. There are plenty of free and paid options out there. Webafrica offers ESET packages for those needing a super-secure, user-friendly security system that’s affordable AF. That said, not all threats come in the form of software, and the most important security measure of all is make yourself aware of the threats and how to protect yourself against them.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is when an internet bad-guy tries to gather your personal information for their own purposes. They do this by pretending to be a trusted source. For example, they may send an email or message which looks like it comes from your bank or another trusted institution.
These details can be used to access your profiles and accounts which in turn can be used for a multitude of things – most commonly, to get at your money by one means or another.
Another common phishing scam is with the use of a “phishing kit” – this is where a website is cloned to look exactly like a website which you use regularly (like your bank) – and then when you try to log in your credentials are stolen. The scammer can then send you an email which points you to the spoofed site, and grab whatever they need to access your accounts.
How to protect yourself from phishing
- Don’t open emails from unknown sources, especially if they contain attachments.
- If you open an email from a known source but it seems suspicious, contact the known party from a new email (not by hitting reply) and ask them if they sent it.
- Always check the spelling on URLs in email links before you click. (If you hover over the link before you click it, the URL will display in the bottom left corner of your screen).
- Always check the spelling on URLs in email links before you enter any sensitive information.
- Watch for URL re-directs while any page from a link is opening.
- Never post your phone number, email, or details about upcoming travel plans on social media.
Catfishing is when an online “baddy” pretends to be someone they’re not with the specific purpose of deceiving you. They create a fake profile, or pretend to be someone else. Catfishing is not always about money either. Sometimes these are just internet “trolls” looking to amuse themselves or in some other way cause harm to their victim. It can be a nasty method of cyber bullying.
These “catfishers” often work through social media and dating sites.
How to spot a catfish
It’s hard to differentiate between a real person and a catfish, especially if they’ve been in the game for a while. There are some warning signs and common sense measures, though.
- If they seem too good to be true, they probably are.
- If they have a social profile with very few photos and very few friends or connections.
- All their photos seem too well-finished or touched up.
- They get serious way too fast.
- They never want to meet up in person, and keep finding reasons to cancel plans to do so.
- They ask for help with money or ask for your personal details. This is usually done using guilt tactics.
- They claim to be English but clearly don’t have a good grip on the language.
- They are not tagged in any friend’s photos.
- There is little activity on their accounts.
- You can’t find them on any other platforms.
- This person begins to bully you, or in any way make you feel badly about yourself, for any reason, even though you have never met them in person. Some catfish only want to bully and troll unsuspecting people.
- They ask you to meet with them in a remote place or somewhere you’re unfamiliar with. NEVER meet up anyone you have met online unless it is in a public place where you feel secure and you’re familiar with the surroundings, and at a time of day when there will be lots of other people around.
If you suspect you are being catfished, you should definitely alert the relevant authorities.
Report on Facebook
Report on YouTube
Report on Instagram
Report on Twitter
For the most part, your firewalls and anti-virus should be doing a good job of keeping your devices safe, but there are still some common sense measures.
The number one rule is: THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK.
- When you hover over the link, check the URL that pops up in the bottom left corner of your screen.
- Don’t download anything illegally. Really.
- Don’t click on any dicey looking links or websites.
- Be very wary of clicking anything that offers a “free download” unless you know for sure that the site is secure.
- Don’t open an email from an unsolicited source which contains any attachment (you’ll know there is an attachment if there is a little paperclip icon on the email).
- Don’t click inside any links that have been sent via email from an unknown source.
- Do allow your ESET (or whichever antivirus you use) to run regular system checks and updates.
You know the old adage “common sense is not that common”? Well, it’s especially true when it comes to the internet. It is important to be vigilant when you’re online.
If something seems to good to be true, it probably is.
If a friend asks you for money or some other unusual personal detail via social media – give them a call over the phone to make sure it’s really them and their account hasn’t been cloned.
If something looks or feels off – stop and assess the situation fully.
At the end of the day common sense is the most useful tool you have at your disposal. Use it well!