Account hacking is on the rise. There are at least 30 billion devices connected online, with each device having access to multiple accounts (mine mobile has over 40 different apps/accounts alone). That is lots of accounts for cyber criminals to hack.
Hackers aim to access your personal information with a view to either holding it to ransom, or committing crimes such as identity theft. When you think about all our activity online, from banking to social media, there are lots of opportunities for hackers to cause lots of damage out there.
Cyber criminals use a variety of techniques to access your information, including phishing for access through realistic looking fake e-mails that have trojan's and other forms of malware that do the damage when the fake link is clicked or attachment opened.
Once the link is clicked or attachment opened, a series of events are set in motion which can include keystroke software being installed to pick up all of your actions that enable access to your accounts.
In addition, it is reported that over 60% of people use the same password for all of their accounts. Whilst this is convenient for you, it is also convenient for the cyber criminal. Not keeping up with software patching also presents another attack vector for hackers.
In this article we simply review good practices you can adopt to protect your online accounts.
Lots of resources are online and in book form that offer advice and guidance for protecting yourself whilst connected to the Internet.
One such author is Marc Goodman (Opens New Window) who wrote a book called Future Crimes in 2015. It's an excellent source of information with many prophecies proving to be true. His UPDATE advice to protecting yourself online touches on several themes throughout this section of eComputerZ.
If you can afford it, subscribe to a good quality VPN service. I am currently subscribed to Mullvad VPN, and apart from some ad-hoc random disconnection issues, the service has been good.
It should go without saying that good quality Anti Virus and Anti Malware software packages on all of your devices is a must to protect against account hacking methods and techniques.
However, it is worth noting Anti Virus and Anti Malware solutions are only part of the overall approach, whereas once upon a time, this was more than sufficient
Therefore, to prevent losing your information to a Ransomware attack, for example, make sure you have a robust data backup plan in place. Also, ensure where possible you use your personal devices at home rather than public devices, or public Wi-Fi networks.
In addition, always think twice about the data you submit online and who with. If they have a data breach, it's your information that's at risk of being exploited.
Phishing e-mails are easy to target at regularly accessed e-mail accounts. How many e-mails do you simply delete from your main account? Have you checked how many e-mail are in your spam filter?
Always delete suspicious e-mails without opening them, even if they are from someone you know, or a source you can usually Trust. If they appear 'off', then be sensible and remove ASAP. Let the person know their account may be compromised. They'll be very appreciative, and it stops further propagation of the hackers phishing scam.
Also let people know in your contacts list if you are unfortunate to have your account hacked. They will know not to open any correspondence from you until the matter is resolved.
If you are looking to create a new account for something you are uncertain will be used long-term, create a temporary e-mail account with a provider such as Guerrilla Mail (Opens New Window) that will be auto-deleted after 24 hours.
Social media accounts are often targeted by those perpetuating account hacking. For each account, make sure you review all possible security settings and enable, for example, login alerts, so you know if someone else has accessed your account.
Whilst we are on the subject of social media, think twice about what you share. Ask yourself if what's on your story that could aid cyber criminals capture and/or exploit your accounts and data.
Also, don't blindly accept friend requests from people you don't know, or people you do know, but their account behaviour does match with the person you know and/or love. It could be a fake account, or their account has already been hacked. Same goes for e-mails.
When using mobile devices ensure you use biometric and/or pattern lock style PINs where possible. See the Mobile Phone Security Awareness article for more detail. Also, have a clear understanding on how to remotely lock and wipe your device if lost or stolen.
In addition to keeping tabs on your mobile devices, another area to monitor is the security status of the websites you regularly use. Perform online searches or use sites such as Vigilante (Opens New Window) to see their current status.
If you find a website that you log in to has been compromised, make sure you change the password for that site immediately.
In a similar vein, you can check to see if any of your accounts have been compromised. Simply enter your e-mail address in to the 'Have I Been Pawned' site (Opens New Window).
Again if the results show accounts that use your e-mail address have been hacked, close those accounts down that you no longer use, if possible, but always change the password for each account.
In addition to setting complex passwords, enable multi factor authentication as an added layer of security when it is available.
Modern web browsers and sites have facilities that save your information for future use, including account log in details, common forms fields such as home addresses, and bank card details. Be careful with what information you choose to be saved for convenience.
The only foolproof method to prevent account hacking is to delete all of your online accounts and remove yourself from any online activity.
It is likely this approach is not appropriate for the majority of people these days because it disconnects you from friends, family, and all the conveniences the online world has available.
Therefore, please make the effort to adopt as many of the actions presented in this article as soon as possible. I know it's a pain, and time consuming, but it is more than worth the effort if it means your online data remains secure.
Finally, to prevent further risk of account hacking, take a note of the following tips and article references for further information on this subject.