Hackers have become very sophisticated over the past few years. Not only the recent attack on Target was tremendous, but it was also rather unusual because hackers attacked the company through their point of sale equipment and not online.
Dr. Vijay Anand, assistant professor in the department of Engineering and Technology at Southeast Missouri State University, gave some advices on how consumers can protect themselves against cybercrime. He urges consumers to be more proactive regarding cybersecurity, even if it is always difficult to predict where an attack will occur.
“It is always a good idea to check back on your account in a timely manner. That’s the only recourse consumers have at this point, it’s to regularly check on their account,” Anand said.
As far as credit or debit cards are concerned, consumers should privilege banks who offer them cards with a chip in it, instead of only the usual magnetic strip. The chip has a microprocessor which has more security features and guarantees more secure transactions. It is better than the magnetic strip, according to Anand, because the active chip can prevent certain kinds of attacks.
Regarding the issue of identity theft, Anand suggests people to do pretty much the same as for bank account attacks.
“The only recourse that you have against identity theft is to check and monitor your credit report,” Anand said.
Individuals can also be more careful by not throwing away mail containing sensitive personal information. Individuals should shred potentially sensitive mail. Indeed, some attackers do dumpster diving which consists in going over somebody’s trash in search of useful information about that person. Also, Anand remind consumers that they should never answer an email asking to give away private information such as your social security number. If a bank or other entity needs it, they will not ask for it through email. Those are called phishing attacks and are incredibly common.
Concerning internet browsers, Anand said he would privilege Firefox and Google Chrome over other browsers as he considers those two more secure. But there are other ways to be careful when doing a transaction. He explained that people should make sure the web link contains the “https” prefix instead of the usual “http.”
“If it is https then it is a secure transaction, there is some authentification going on, so that is a secure connection that you have with a server. But if you have a basic http connection, it’s not secure.”
Anand insisted on this point, making clear that this small change can make a huge difference regarding to the security of the transaction.
“It the https sign is not there I would never put my username and password into that account because I have no idea whether it is a secure site or a non secure site,” Anand added.
It is difficult for small businesses to protect themselves because cybersecurity is expensive. What they can do, Anand advised, is to use platforms such as Google Pay or PayPal because they are trustworthy sites with a huge security capacity. To him, it’s definitely a better solution than any home built solution.
Hackers don’t really go after private individuals one at a time. It would take too long.
“What they typically do is that they will go and attack the database of a large corporation, which as information about millions of people, so that value is much higher,” Anand said.
So even if the targets are still primarily big corporations, one is never too careful and should follow some of those tips to make sure that their online transactions remain safe.