The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Columns

February 16, 2013

'Big Joe' Clark: Don’t get false sense of security about Internet use

Ignorance is rarely, if ever, bliss, and protecting your identity online is no place to be flippant. In fact, it is one of the places you should be the most paranoid.

We spend multiple hours weekly studying strategies to protect our clients’ wealth, and one of those areas of attention is identity theft. Though many people seem to believe the attacks have diminished, they have actually increased dramatically. In 2011 the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a part of the Department of Justice, received from consumers more than 300,000 complaints of online crimes.

We have become more comfortable with computers, and our natural skeptical tendencies have subsided. The hackers have not. They have become more sophisticated. In multiple examples provided at a recent symposium, professionals demonstrated how hackers can gain access to your accounts and seemingly do nothing for as long as 18 months.

You send out tidbits of information in social media and emails, and they merely collect the data until they have the entire story. Then they pounce.

This isn’t just for individuals. Corporations, both big and small, deal with cyber security, as well. Yet not all companies recognize the danger.

According to a study by Deloitte published in January, 88 percent of companies do not think they are vulnerable to a cyber-threat. The report also cited that more than half of the same companies surveyed had already experienced a security incident in the previous 12 months.

Hewlett Packard and the Ponemon Institute reported in 2012 that the average cost of cybercrime to a U.S. company was $8.9 million, which is up 38 precent from 2010. This figure is expected to rise alongside the technology hackers gain access to in order to penetrate personal and corporate private information. Hackers are becoming more patient and more effective.

Luckily, we can better protect ourselves. Commonsense and old-fashion suspicion go a long way, when it comes to Internet safety. For shopping online, it’s often a safe bet to stick to well-known retailers such as Amazon and Wal-Mart or websites that use trusted third-party verification services such as Truste or SSL Certificate. Try not to use the same password for multiple websites, because if one site becomes compromised then that might possibly open up other sites you use.  

Be mindful when accessing wireless internet (WiFi) in public places; scammers have the ability to monitor what you access online if the proper precautions are not taken. As always, make sure you are using a reliable anti-virus and if possible firewall software on your computer.

These layers of protection aren’t perfect, but they can provide some peace of mind that while the internet has its dangers, it’s still possible to surf the web in a safe and secure manner.

Joseph “Big Joe” Clark, whose column is published Sundays, is a certified financial planner. He can be reached at bigjoe@yourlifeafterwork.com or 640-1524.

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