Hackers running riot, here’s how you can protect yourself


The year 2016, is turning out to be the year of data breaches. Hackers have become particularly active and just today, we are hearing about two big data breaches: Millions of Gmail IDs and password almost went on sale and there is a suspect data breach in the IRCTC website that is used by crores of Indians.

With hackers on the march, how can you be safe? If you think who would want to hack my account and steal my data, you couldn’t be more wrong. According to a recent report, a hacker was sitting over 272 million email accounts and passwords, and he was ready to trade them, wait, not for money, but just for a good name in hacker forums. Any inconspicuous user could be a target. You as well.

Unfortunately, most people keep only one password for different accounts, for example, same password for Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, or even online banking. Even a simple brute force attack can reveal thousands of email credentials, a more professional attempt will do more harm.

So what can you do? There are a few simple things that you can do to keep yourself significantly safe from hackers.

Don’t trust add-ons

A website may tell you that an add-on is needed to run something or other on the page. Don’t trust it. Add-ons are applications that you can install to support the browser perform specific functions. For example, an IDM add-on will let you download a video.

Not all add-ons are trustworthy. They not even slow your browser and thus, system, they can also insert malware, cookies into your system. Malware can track all your actions on your computer, offline and online, and also steal data.

Always install add-ons from trusted developers like Google, Adobe and the likes. So next time if a website asks you to install add-on to make your Chrome or Firefox more colorful, just close the tab.

There is no foolproof way of denying hackers access. But even a little something can make a big difference, for the internet is dark and full of hackers.

Don’t trust pop-ups

All pop-ups are advertisements, and all advertisements seek your attention, so much so that they won’t mind following you everywhere.

To put it in a simple way, all websites work with advertisers. And the sharing of user information with advertisers across the web falls under Digital Advertising Alliance. And it’s not illegal. But then, not all advertisers are legitimate.

Clicking on a pop-up may reveal your location to the website, leave trackers, malware, trojan in your system. None of these things are good.

Install ad-blocker

No pop-ups, no ads anywhere, not even on YouTube. Doesn’t that sound like a dream? You can have it. Just add a simple extension to your browser, Adblock Plus. You’ll get rid of all the ads, pop-ups and even intrusive, harmful website scripts.

There are websites which will ask you to turn off the ad-blocker, because ads are basically the foremost money generators for websites, and they are not at fault for asking this from you.

You can turn off the ad-blocker for that site selectively. However, it’d be better to use your own judgement that for which website you should turn it off.

Turn off location

Microsoft’ latest Windows 10 added location tab similar to Android and iOS. The earlier Windows versions had this turned on by default. The feature is only useful for the websites that need location based information like Zomato. Some websites, mostly suspicious, will ask you to share your location. Be cautious here.

Be vary of spams

Spams also work similar to the online ads. You get spams based on your browsing habits, what you search for on Google, what you talk about with your friends. This also is legal, as we noted earlier.

But some spams may carry links inside them. Something like “XYZ wants to be your friend on Facebook. Click here to login”. This is most probably a phishing link, which means it may appear to be the real Facebook homepage, but it will simply give your username and password to the owner.

It’s suggested that you deleted a spam right away. And put filters in your mail so that any such mail goes straight to the spam inbox.

Keep changing passwords

This is the most important of all. Take note of the following:

  1. If you are using one password for many accounts, stop doing it.
  2. Make a routine to change passwords every three to six months.
  3. Create strong passwords that have small letter, capital letter, numbers, and special characters in it.
  4. Say no to passwords based on your or your partner’s birth date, anything related to your life, favorite food, or movie. Just NO!
Following these steps will make you safer when you enter the wild territory called internet. There is no foolproof way of denying hackers access. But even a little something can make a big difference, for the internet is dark and full of hackers.

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