Digital Security Guide

Scott Repasky
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What Is Digital Security?

Throughout your life, you might come into possession of digital items. These items can be anything from scanned personal checks to a child’s first drawing. But your most prized possession as a digital item may be your family photos.

This guide will provide the best tips on how to securely store these photos because it’s easy for pictures, videos, and other memories to be stolen or lost. Nothing is more heartbreaking than realizing you’ve lost all your photos of your loved ones.

We’ve discussed the following topics in this guide:

  • Choosing The Best Digital Picture Storage Device
  • An Overview on Digital Security and How To Protect It
  • What Is Password Protection?
  • What is Encryption?
  • Using Unique Passwords
  • An Overview on How To Encrypt Sensitive Files
  • Creating Strong Passwords
  • Adjusting Your Hotmail/Outlook Password Settings

Cyber Attack Statistics

Cybersecurity attacks have a greater probability of causing a loss of property or loss of life than natural disasters. In fact, the majority of cyberattacks have the potential to cause severe cardiac damage, due to the presence of malignant code, which is designed to delete and damage data on the system.

However, only a handful of attacks actually lead to infections. Thankfully, cyber security firms, formed to curb malware and its effects, have developed systems to combat cybercrime. These companies include Microsoft, Kaspersky Lab, and Symantec; all of which are excellent products to combat cyberattacks. With the help of these security firms, large-scale attacks have decreased dramatically.

Even with all the advancements, and the decrease in attacks, small-scale attacks on individual computers and networks are still occurring. Individuals, small businesses, corporations, schools, and financial institutions have been targeted by these attacks. Unfortunately, sometimes they end in disaster.

Want to see how you can protect yourself?

What Is Hacking? And How To Avoid It

Hacking, as we know it, is illegal. It is the intentional act of intercepting and tampering with a person’s communication, whether they are a client of your company or just an individual who uses the same Wi-Fi SSID that you do.

If you do not want to be a victim of hacking, you must take the necessary steps. Do not be careless online. Exercise caution and take precautionary measures whenever you use technology. It’s best to assume that you are not 100% safe at all times. It’s essential that you know as much as you can about hacking and that you know how to protect yourself against it. This chapter will give you the necessary information.

What Is Hacking?

There are a few different definitions for what hacking is, but most can be narrowed down to two different areas: information gathering and/or a break in to a network. Information gathering is basically gathering information that would have otherwise been kept private. Once you have this information, it’s up to you what you do with it.

Types of Hackers

In the digital world, there are many different types of hackers out there. Not all are out to cause harm to your privacy or your technology. However, it’s important to know who is who to be able to protect your technology and be aware of who might be looking at (or sharing) your private info.

Script Kiddies

These are the newbies in the hacking world. They’re not really professional by any means, but they are at least trying. Script Kiddies are not after any items of value, they’re looking for the fun of it and to see if they can do it. Their hacking activities are usually based upon easy-to-find information online and code that is readily available to the public.

Hacktivists

Hacktivists are a faction of members linked to causes. They usually use their abilities to fight for social justice or human rights. These are the people who fight for underdog causes and can become dangerous. They may expose secrets they have found through illegal activity to bring attention to the cause they support.

Types of Hacks

A hack has gotten a bad rap these days. You may even have implemented password security as a result. Not that it won’t keep your information safe, but it’s at least partly out of fear. The reason people are scared of hacks is because they don’t know what they are. And, they think of a hack as a very bad thing.

In fact, there are two types of hacks that are commonly talked about. ¦ The hack that is evil (usually referred to as a breach) and the hack that is necessary (happy hacking).

The purpose of this post is to help you understand the different types of hacks, where they come from, and what they really mean for you. ¦ Both good and bad. You’ll also learn how to secure your data against each type with password management.

There are two types of interlopers: ¦ Those who have the skills to subvert your security system and those who don’t. If you know what to look for, you can be prepared for a breach. What you may not know is that the real threat comes from the ones who have the skills to bypass your security.

How Hacking Works

Hacking is common phrase nowadays especially when talking about information on the internet. There are lots of web pages that actually use words such as "hacking" in their web page title. They usually do this to make themselves look interesting and potentially divert people's attention to their web pages. If you look at the more popular articles on this subject, you will realize that this word has gained more popularity and is more commonly used by ordinary users.

We hear and see this word all of the time – whether it is in the news, TV shows, or on the internet. Is is possible that we might sometimes use the word a little bit too much? It seems that way, but on the other hand – we do not have another word to replace the word "hacking".

Is hacking illegal? Can you be arrested for hacking? Does this mean that you can break into your neighbor's computer and change passwords on certain files? If you have any of these questions, you are not alone and you may be one of those people who really do not know much about this concept.

Why Hacking Is Bad (And Good)

As the threat of cyber attacks and identity theft grows day by day, I feel more strongly about sharing some basic 'cyber security' lessons. In this article, I wanted to share some things I've learned and some good instructions on how to secure your home network. Hopefully you'll find this helpful.

One of the first things I'll say is that hacking, in general, is a positive, necessary, and useful part of the long-term development of the Internet. I don't mean to suggest that every hacker is a white hat, or that the bad guys are always on the right side of the law. But in aggregate, security threats and attacks are an essential part of network security. It's how we learn and adapt. Without hackers, security would essentially stop advancing.

Security researchers and hackers are concerned with finding vulnerabilities, while professionals in the IT field are focused on preventing those vulnerabilities from being exploited. When security researchers and hackers come together they can fix problems probably before the public at large even know there is a problem.

Consider the Heartbleed security breach, which was rated as a "critical" vulnerability. Let's explore this term. Critical means that a significant number of websites and servers run a serious risk of being attacked. It's so important that you should promptly change your passwords, because if an attacker can steal passwords they can steal money and information.

How To Protect Your Smartphone From Hacking

As smartphone technology has developed tremendously, so has cybercrime software.

Most smartphone users are worried about their phones being lost or stolen. What they don’t realize is that the security risk is even greater than that. Almost everyone has their personal information on their smartphones.

Personal information such as private photos, messages, and contacts are all vulnerable to cybercrime. Here’s an article that will help you learn the best ways to protect yourself and your personal information from smart phone hacking.

Is This Website Safe?

Most webmasters want to make visitors feel safe on their site – more than they want to make them feel challenged. As we discussed in our first section, this means that your content goes undisturbed because it's rarely sanitized. If you can make content look normal to search engines while more of it is available to paying customers, it's a win-win situation for you and your visitors.

Users get access to the information they want to find.

You make money from the content.

And search engines rank more content on your site.

However, non-visitors can also be a threat to your site. Hackers can use a variety of tactics to find and exploit vulnerabilities in your website. Even if you don't publish any sensitive information on your site, hackers can still cause serious damage to your site by redirecting visitors to spam sites or injecting malware into their computers.

In-Browser Tools For Website Safety

The first section covers in-browser tools that you can use to check for warning signs within the browser you are on. These tools are useful for getting an overall view of something like SSL/TLS support and can inform you of possible social engineering attempts. Beyond checking if something is a warning sign, some of the tools can actually be used to protect your information.

Other Website Safety Tests

When running a website, you have a major security concern: keeping your website safe from hackers. In general, your site will run on a computer that is designed to be accessible to the public. It can be a simple matter to try to access the computers of other businesses or organizations on the Internet, and even easier to access websites that are insecurely designed.

Use Trusted Retailers

One of the first steps recommended by the Identity Theft Resource Center is to avoid giving personal information to untrusted third parties. This harkens to the fact that online shopping has become so ubiquitous that even retail stores are making online purchasing available to their customers.

In addition to the numerous retail stores that offer e-commerce, there a number of websites which have fully implemented online shopping. Furthermore, there are also sites which have e-commerce in addition to offering other services. These sites collect personal information from individuals who visit their websites and even from those who participate in surveys and promotions.

Regardless of the business model of the site, since these websites are not directly affiliated with many of their customers and they are not required by law to take precautions for the security of the information that is provided to them, online shoppers run the potential risk of having their information stolen and used for identity theft.

The Identity Theft Resource Center warns people to only purchase goods and services online from trusted vendors which have a proven reputation of providing their customers with the highest level of privacy and security when ordering products and services online.

You can also consider purchasing from retailers that utilize a trusted online payment processing service, such as Paypal or Payhip. This ensures that you do not share any of your banking information with a company that may decide to keep your details or sell it for personal gain.

Double Check URLs

Double-checking any URL you enter into a browser window is something we probably don’t all do as much as we should. We are on the go and the last thing we want to do is stop and translate what appear to be our targeted URLs.

Instead, we often rely on visual validation techniques. Basically, we have enough experience with how a valid page looks and feels that we can spot a fake pretty quickly. Unfortunately, there are experienced hackers who use this same methodology to quickly spot our tell-tale signs that we are here for our money instead of here to simply see what’s up.

The best way to reduce this vulnerability is to take your time and double check everything. Translating the page into a familiar language is only one step toward validating your trusted source. If you see URLs written in non-standard characters or symbols, you should stop and figure out exactly where you are. The attackers may be on the prowl for email addresses to use in spam campaigns, utilize social media hacks, or even open up a back door to your PC.

Note Payment Methods

Choose payment methods that are less likely to be copied while online transactions are being made, and less likely to be used fraudulently. The more security measures there are from the start, the greater the chances that the transaction will be completed without a hitch.

Choose a Method that Is Unique

Payment methods such as checks may use codes that should be destroyed immediately after usage to reduce security risks. Unique codes should be introduced when required which will only be known to the person who is in possession of the item being sold.

Visa Credit and Debit Cards Are a Good Option

You can simply send the number on the back of your card to your customer. Not only is it less likely to be used by a third party for online purchases, but your customer can also verify the card is in your possession by looking at the code. With these two safeguards in place, your transaction is far less likely to be compromised through non-delivery, charge-back, or a violation of the terms of service.

Google offers a similar method for payments, permitting you to send a text message containing the card details to the purchaser within seconds.

Have a Back-up Plan

The moment a payment request has been received, you will be asked to complete the sale. You should always have a backup plan if your Internet connectivity goes down or you experience slower speeds. This is true for Internet or mobile use.

Check Review Sites

When searching for the best online security firms, be a smart shopper and check review sites first. These credible sites and forums will give you good information about these services and allow you to see what others have to say about them. These reviews are written by people who have used these services, so they can be trusted to be transparent and nonbiased. You’ll know if these are the services for you with these honest reviews.

Reading reviews online is the easiest way to determine if the service is right for you. The information that you need is readily available to you, and you are able to examine each point in detail before you join.

In addition to reading reviews, visit the company’s website as well. Look for a privacy policy and read it before giving out any private information. You want to know which information is being collected, who is getting it, and do you feel comfortable with your personal information being known by a company.

Check For HTTPS

When online, make sure your web browser is always using the secure HTTP protocol to make connections with web servers, when a web page is served using the HTTP protocol.

Use a browser that displays your SSL certificate/digital identity information on the URL bar.

Check the browser’s Settings to ensure that the browser is configured to show the website’s digital identity information (i.e. the SSL certificate) for all secure websites that you connect to. If you have not set up your digital identity/SSL certificate in the web server software, contact your hosting provider to have it set up.

Make sure the browser’s Security and Privacy options are configured to show the website’s digital identity information.

Keep your web browser up-to-date because some security vulnerabilities become public only after a patch has been released (Google regularly checks for new updates and helpfully notifies you when it finds any for the browser(s) you use).

Never give your username or password to anyone. Requests for this information in a chatroom or on a social networking site should be ignored.

Look For A Privacy Policy

You’re probably familiar with the concept of a customer privacy policy. They’ve been around since the start of the internet, and they’re actually relatively easy to find on any website.

They’re always marketed as a way to regard online consumer privacy, and to give the user peace of mind, but their sole purpose is to make lots of money for whichever company they’re writing them for.

It’s important to understand that an online privacy policy isn’t a privacy policy at all. In fact, a privacy policy comes into play when you visit a website that requires you to give them your personal information.

A privacy policy is legally binding, so whenever you give out information about yourself on a website that doesn’t have one, it’s not protected in any way. It’s also noted that companies will deliberately avoid personal information collection by promising you that they won’t use them. Often businesses will claim that they won’t be giving your information to third-party advertisers, but they don’t directly mention things like their own marketing partners.

Don’t Blindly Trust “Trust” Badges

If you have an online business, you’re probably well versed with the sites that allow customers to review your products and service (for example, Amazon, Ebay, Yelp, and new business start up sites like Wix and Weebly). You’re very attached to getting the positive reviews since they determine those 4 and 5 star rankings that get customers in the door. So, of course, you want to encourage good reviews and discourage the bad ones. So how do you do that through your website?

Using “trust” badges and security icons are becoming increasingly popular. These badges and icons designed to instill trust in the visitors using your site. There is no problem with this as long as you remember what they are designed to do. They’re meant to make the visitor feel confident that they are safe and their information is safe (if entered). They signal “trust” to the visitor and they are effective in doing that but they stop there. It’s important to remember that the badge or icon is not a guarantee of safety and that you must take precautions to protect the customer’s information.

Be wary when you see a website using a certificate or badge to signal “trust”.

Look For These Red Flags

A recent study by the Better Business Bureau revealed that you should be on high alert for ads that claim that you won a prize but first you must pay some sort of fee to claim it. In most cases, the offer exists only to cheat you out of your money.

Another red flag is the deal that's "too good to be true." That means beware of any offer that seems to be extremely low cost or high-paying. Also, if you get a phone call or email from someone who is claiming to be a representative of a company, but they are asking you to wire or send money to claim your prize or low-cost deal, that's a scam. Lastly, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Unfortunately, scammers know and are taking advantage of the fact that your head is filled with thoughts of possibly winning money. That's why they come up with the money opportunity scam.

As for the official money making offers, they really do exist. Just make sure to do your homework when it comes to picking a money making opportunity that’s worth your time.

Look Up Domain Owner

Before you perform a domain report to find out who owns the site, you’ll want to verify who it is that you’re really trying to get ahold of. You can easily find this off of any website by typing this into your address bar: “who.is/whois”. Hit enter and you’ll be taken to the whois report for the website.

If you want to try and find out who owns a specific email address or domain name, the best way to do that is find the information on a search engine, like Google, Yahoo, Bing, or any others. Just type in the address or domain name and then hit enter.

Call Company

Now that you’re in business to sell products and services, you don’t want to put all of your eggs in the basket of your complete anonymity. Releasing too much information about yourself can be just as bad as not releasing a shred of information about yourself. Your customers need to know who they are working with, while you need to keep your personal information safe. To achieve a balance, you can use a service like MailerMailer to help you handle your customer’s communications.

When you first send out a letter to your customers, you want to include a little bit of personal information about yourself. You could start off the letter by taking two minutes to introduce yourself and tell them a little bit about your business. Communicate a few things about what you do, and develop a little bit of rapport with them.

You will be able to do this without giving away your entire identity. Meeting someone and handing them your business card is very impersonal. MailerMailer offers you the chance to communicate with your customers on a more personal level. You could work with them to organize an email campaign. You can set up a home page for your business and make it just a little bit more interactive. You can use MailerMailer to reach out to your customers; to create a more personal relationship with your business.

Additional Web Security Tools

If you are interested in securing your own website, you'll need to be familiar with the techniques used by hackers. Security doesn't happen by accident and you can't improve your protection without knowing what the vulnerabilities are. Luckily, there are tons of online resources that cover the wide range of techniques that the different types of hackers use. Here are some of the top resources for learning about web hacking techniques.

There are many tools that I feel give you a good idea of what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to security. The tools that I recommend are those that I personally use on a regular basis. I know these tools to be effective at providing reliable results.

Curl

Curl is a command line tool. It is a fine replacement for using a web browser for most purposes. You can use it to download a web page, transfer files, or even to execute commands.

Charles

Charles is a proxy server. The beauty of using a proxy server to inspect traffic is that you can have complete control over the traffic. You can see what is being sent and received as it happens. This is a very powerful tool.

Zaproxy

VPNs

VPNs protect your privacy online. When you connect to the internet, your data moves from one computer to the next. This could take several stops, moving to a number of servers and potentially being viewed by many people. Once you are connected to a VPN, your data gets encrypted, which makes it impossible for anyone to see that information as it passes through all those computers.

With all the numerous vendors, VPNs can be complicated to assess. We analyzed the most popular VPN companies to figure out if they work for free, and which features you need to pay for. As you research, you’re going to hear about how important it is to have a VPN, but they can be overwhelming with features, services, apps, and prices. In our research, we found a clear-cut winner for the best VPN service, and then a couple of backup choices. [Read VPN Section]

If a VPN connection is encrypted, you don’t just protect your data when using public WiFi, but you also protect your own information that you share over the internet using email or social media. Essentially, a VPN is an online security tool with all these great benefits:

Keeps your IP address private.

Encrypts data.

Prevents ISP tracking.

Protects you on public and/or unsecured WiFi networks.

Prevents others from monitoring your internet traffic.

Identity Monitoring Services

If a person or person's identity is stolen by an online scam artist, you'll want to make sure to sign up for one of the identity monitoring services. This service will notify you in real time when a new application (credit request, credit card, vehicle loan, apartment lease, mortgage, etc.) is opened in your name or that includes your personal information.

The companies that offer identity monitoring services are called, consumer reporting agencies, also known as, credit reporting agencies. They offer both a free and a fee-based option. The fee-based options are usually more comprehensive and detailed, but the free options are a good place to start your search.

In addition to identity monitoring, you may also want to consider insurance against identity theft. The insurance will cover things like, stolen assets, damaged credit, and out-of-pocket expenses caused by identity theft.

Password Managers

Password managers are programs for managing passwords. They are very popular in general because they are an excellent way to keep in control of your passwords and also keep your passwords extremely secure.

There are two main types of password managers: (1) native implementations, which are part of the operating system, and (2) web-based implementations, which are accessed over a web browser.

Regardless of the type of password manager, they all basically do the same thing. They let you create a master password and then they store all of your passwords in an encrypted format and also get you in automatically every time you log in. This keeps your passwords really safe and they are also very quick and easy to use.

Their only downside is that the encryption on these programs has to be very good indeed in order for them to be secure. So you do have to get the right product in order to have peace of mind, and you also have to trust them enough to let them store all of your passwords.

Recap

The Adios “Digital Security Guide” for Travellers was written for people living in the Internet age … and the information may seem once in a lifetime. But, it’s something everyone may have to worry about, at some point in their lives. It’s about the safety and security of your personal data … especially if your lifestyle or profession requires travelling to different countries. However, it’s also for people most everyone to learn about these advanced hacking techniques just in case you ever fall into a cyber ambush.

If you’re a tourist travelling to a foreign country, “Tourism will become a terrible experience,” said Ken Stasiak, Former Director of the Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s Office of Privacy and Information Protection and a member of the Federal Privacy Commissioner’s Advisory Council. A lot of what is written in this guide is based on the research done by the Privacy Commissioner’s Office and you can find more articles, reports and fact sheets on the numerous events that are happening everywhere (i.e. identity theft, data theft, denial of service attacks, etc.) a person goes on the Internet.