20 Cyber Security Secrets Hackers Don’t Want You to Know
Computer hackers have lots of tools to threaten your Internet security, but these tips from cybersecurity experts can help protect your privacy.
We impersonate trustworthy companies
You may get a fake financial warning from your bank or credit card company, order confirmation from a retailer, or social networking invitation.
Outsmart us: Remember, most companies never ask you outright for your account information. You can sometimes spot this type of scam by hovering over the address in the From field or by hitting Reply All and looking for misspellings or strange addresses. Also, check to see that the e-mail was sent to you and only you. If you’re not sure it’s legit, call the company instead.
We debit tiny amounts—at first
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Cyberthieves may test-drive a stolen card number by running a small charge under $10 to see if anyone notices.
Outsmart us: Check your transactions online regularly—even daily. If you spot a charge you don’t recognize, report it immediately to your card issuer. To prevent hackers from getting your card information, remember these 10 times you should never pay with a credit card.
We hacked that ATM you just withdrew cash from
Crooks install cleverly disguised “skimmers” to steal your card information, while a hidden camera or a thin skin over the keypad captures your PIN. Now, scammers even have a way of targeting ATMs remotely.
Outsmart us: Try to use ATMs inside banks, where it’s tougher for criminals to install these devices, and inspect the machine carefully before you use it. “Whenever I use an ATM, I give the area where you insert the card a little tug to make sure it’s secure and is really a part of the machine,” Fellini says.
We count on your downloading our free, fake versions of popular apps
These apps steal confidential information or bypass your phone’s security settings and subscribe you to premium services. “You choose the free version of a game, it asks for all sorts of access, and you say ‘yes, yes, yes’ to all the permissions,” Vigna says. “The next thing you know, it’s sending premium SMS text messages and stealing your money.”
Outsmart us: Before installing an app, check the ratings and number of people who have installed it—hackers can fake positive ratings, but they can’t stop other posters from warning that the app is a trick. Most fake apps have to be downloaded straight from a website, so make sure you always download from an official market like Google Play or Apple’s App Store. Follow these 5 tips to keep your cell phone safe from hackers.
We love that you always leave Wi-Fi on
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Though it’s convenient to leave Wi-Fi turned on while traveling with your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, your device will constantly try to connect to known networks. Attackers can identify those and set up rogue networks that impersonate them.
Outsmart us: Get in the habit of turning off your Wi-Fi every time you leave your home.
We fool you with bogus software updates
You know you’re supposed to update your software to protect it, but hackers may send you fake updates that actually install malicious backdoor programs on your computer.
Outsmart us: If you get a pop-up message about an update, go to the software provider’s actual website and check to see if it’s real. You can also try closing your browser to see if the pop-up disappears—if it does, it may be a fake.
We can crack supposedly safe retailers
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Experts say big brands will continue getting hacked until retailers can better protect their data. Hackers sell your information on the black market, and other criminals then use it to make counterfeit cards that can be used for shopping.
Outsmart us: Don’t save your financial information when you shop online—check out as a “guest” when you can. If you fall prey to an attack, ask your bank to issue you a new credit card, take advantage of any credit monitoring that’s offered, and scrutinize your statements. Stay safe with these 10 ways to protect yourself online.
Safety in real life
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Readers who recovered from or prevented a cybercrime share their advice:
Try not to apply for credit cards online—credit card companies require your Social Security number. Once you put that out there, it’s out there forever. —Christine Mumper, via email
Avoid debit cards—they allow hackers much easier access to bank accounts than credit cards do. Also, when logging in to an online account, never check the box that says “Remember me.” It takes only a couple of seconds to type in your username and password each time, and you don’t want that information “remembered.” —Rick Kane, Collettsville, North Carolina
Consider freezing your credit with the three credit bureaus and simply thawing your file when you need to open a new account. Keep the passwords you need to thaw the account in a safe place. This is free or inexpensive in most states. —Frank Coulman, via email
A cybersecurity expert from MetLife Defender helped review and select the best reader tips.