Internet is a treasure cove of information, both useful and unwanted. But, meanwhile, providing access to various resources for its users, it also invariably opens an avenue for unscrupulous others to access every other person’s personal or related information.
In technical terminology, such people who illegally access other’s personal information and eaves drop on conversations across the web are called hackers. They secretly access or steal the identity of others by using malicious software programs called spyware programs. Spoofing – on the other hand – is breaching the identity of users or faking an identity so as to modify an ongoing conversation; here the hacker uses special programs to monitor IM conversations across the internet and covertly add their own messages to the current conversation, without letting the recipient or sender know about the editing behind-the-scene. Let us see the scenarios in more detail.
As mentioned earlier, hackers use various spy-wares to gain access to the user information. These malicious programs, the spy-wares, after breaching the security of the user pc, collects personal information and send it back to the hacker. The hacker then uses this information to fake identity and misuses it for corrupting simple messages to gaining access to bank accounts and forging pins and user ids. Some spy-wares steal information from address books and documents, which in wrong hands could prove to be catastrophic. Mind you, these programs are designed to copy and send vital information, which the hacker thinks is useful to him.
The latter case is more dangerous as here not only the first person is getting affected, but also his/her friends or relatives whose addresses and contact information that happens to be in the hacked person’s address book.
Though PCs are prone to hacker attacks, generally it is the public computers which are more vulnerable. We take care to protect our personal computers from a doubtful outside access. But the same cannot be said about public computers installed in airports or malls or cafes, where people spend brief period of time checking their mails or browsing important sites. Here nobody really care about maintaining the security to unbreakable extents. In a way, a public computer is like a public restroom; that is, one cannot say who had used it last and how he/she handled it. If the last person had used a CD to install a virus, then the next person onwards using the particular computer is vulnerable to hacking.
This implies that the responsibility to protect your personal information from hackers and spoofers rests with individuals itself. If you are using a public computer, take care not to save anything in the hard disk, even if you plan to delete it after use. Use a flash drive, zip disk or floppy disk for the same. Make sure that after reaching home, you scan the disk for a viral infection.
Also, if using a public computer,
- Never send any sensitive data, even if it is to a secured site. The site may be secured but not the PC you are using.
- Check the private policy of the public facility and see if necessary precautions are taken. If there is no private policy, assume that every key press on the PC is getting logged and hence keep of from accessing any of your personal information.
- Even with wireless enabled laptops, there are programs that can eaves drop on the information send or received. Hence a lot depends on the type of public facilities a user chooses.
But, there is no solid method by which one can identify a malicious email, attachment or web site either. But there can be tell-tale signs which could hint a malicious access, such as,
- Emails with extensive grammar and spelling errors. They can be potential scams.
- If the email asks the user to send his/her personal information in the direct reply. Legitimate institutions, in their private policies, have statements against collecting personal information.
- Never reply to an email or open an attachment unless you are sure about the sender.
- Keep off from any link that is sent to you by somebody you don’t know.
To conclude, in general, it is difficult to offer fool proof security to a medium like internet, which is accessed by millions across the world. Hence, the onus is on the user to safeguard his/her personal information and identity in a web perspective. Take care to keep a close vigil while browsing the internet. That is vital to block the attempts of hackers, key loggers, and phishers. Good Luck.