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Information Overload: Tips for protecting yourself online

By C.J. CASTILLO
Dec. 19, 2011 at 6:19 a.m.
Updated Dec. 20, 2011 at 6:20 a.m.


Seems that, nowadays, not a week goes by where we don't hear about some online scam or website getting hacked.

Federal authorities charged seven men in New York with running a clickjacking scam that infected more than four million computers. Clickjacking is when an attacker tries to hijack a user's clicks and redirects them to another webpage.

In this case, the suspects waited for users to click on links to Apple's iTunes page or Netflix.com. However, instead of going to the official sites, users were redirected to websites that were similar looking but were actually bogus sites. These sites were filled with ads which garnered the suspects close to $14 million.

In addition to being hijacked, the users' machines were also infected with malware. This malware not only was responsible for redirecting the user's browsers, but it also prevented the infected machines from downloading updates to antivirus software.

Hearing about cases like this can make you worry about your own online safety. Campaigns such as International Fraud Awareness Week, encourages people to get educated and learn more about anti-fraud awareness.

Consumer Reports released a report back in February about common scams and how to protect yourself from them. The most common online scams are phishing and spoofing, which can lead to identity theft.

Never respond to emails or phone calls from someone claiming to be your bank asking for your passwords or personal information. The safer action to take is for you to call up your bank and find out if they actually were trying to contact you.

How about emails with links in them? Or attachments? When in doubt, pass them up.

Avoid at all costs if the email comes from an untrusted source (like that weird cousin of yours who wears a tracksuit and lives in his mom's van). Even if the email looks like it comes from a legitimate source, like your bank or some other financial institution, it is best to visit the site directly or give them a call.

Other things you can do to protect yourself online is to ensure that your antivirus software is up to date, use strong passwords (please, don't use 1234, ever!), and when shopping or banking online, stay on sites that use encryption protection. Encrypted sites have "https" at the beginning of the Web address.

Use your best judgment when you are online. A Google search to research a company or website can be very beneficial. For more information on how to protect yourself online, visit the Federal Trade Commission's site dedicated to online safety, OnGuardOnline.gov.

CJ Castillo writes about geeky stuff for the Victoria Advocate. You can contact her at cjcastillo@vicad.com. Please send all correspondence c/o Victoria Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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