Home security is one of those topics that has been bled dry over the last few years. It is hard to find any original content on the topic. Strangely though, comparatively less attention has been paid to internet security. Yet internet security is just as important as home security.
Some criminals are still content to burglarize homes and cars. They are happy to steal items they can easily sell on the street. Yet there is a separate criminal element that would never think of committing burglary or home invasion. Rather, they prefer to go after their victims online.
Have you taken the steps to make your home more secure? If so, good for you. How have you done with your internet access? Here is hoping you are not vulnerable to hackers, identity thieves, and other online criminals who think nothing of victimizing innocent people.
We tend to think about cybercrime in terms of sophisticated hackers developing equally sophisticated code designed to break into secure networks. That sort of thing does happen, but it is the exception to the rule. Cyber criminals are more likely to skip all the high-tech stuff in favor of taking advantage of human nature.
Vivint Smart Home published a post in October 2023 discussing online security. In that post, they listed a number of ways cybercriminals victimize people in their own homes. Here are just four of the items on their list:
- Phishing – Phishing is a scam that involves fraudulent websites or emails designed to encourage people to voluntarily give up personal information. The criminals who perpetrate this crime go to great links to convince victims that their requests for information are legitimate.
- Hacking – Old school hacking is still practiced today because it works. Criminals will hack into home networks to gain access to computers, phones, and smart devices. Access allows them opportunities to steal personal information. They can also use compromised devices to perpetrate other crimes across the internet.
- Identity Theft – Most of us are familiar with identity theft at this point. It is an ongoing problem that only seems to get worse by the year. And unfortunately, our social media and online shopping habits make it too easy for criminals to do what they do.
- Online Scams – Online scams run the gamut from email requests for money from a poor widow in Uganda to fraudulent websites urging you to buy the latest antivirus protection at an extremely cheap price. These scams are everywhere. You really need to be careful.
The one thing all these tactics have in common is the ability to take advantage of human nature. Cybercriminals know how people think. They know how to push the right buttons and pull the right levers. In the end, unsuspecting victims caught not paying attention lose tons of money.
Most people know how to beef up their homes to protect against burglary and home invasion. I suspect most do not know how to make the online experience safer. Doing so starts with education. Education is enhanced by due diligence.
If I were educating people and how to be more secure online, I would start with a few examples of how easy it is to commit cybercrime. Once I had their attention, I would delve into specific cybersecurity strategies for the home.
Wireless modems and routers come with default usernames and passwords. They need to. Otherwise, consumers would not be able to set them up. Here’s the thing: factory usernames and passwords are easily found online. That is why it is so important for consumers to change them at installation. No wireless modem or router should ever be used with the defaults.
Next, I would encourage my students to hide their networks. It is easy enough to do for anyone who can read and follow instructions. You simply go into your router’s network security settings, find the option to hide your network, then select and apply it. Now the network is invisible to hackers.
In order to avoid falling victim to phishing attempts, one should never trust strange emails. That would be my next point. Personally, I am very suspicious of any email that comes to me from a sender I do not know. I am also suspicious of any and all emails that try to sell me something, encourage me to sign up for something, or ask me for personal information.
Furthermore, I never open attachments unless I know they are coming. If an unexpected attachment arrives, I always verify it with the sender before I open it. Suspicious attachments automatically get deleted with the emails they are attached to.
I would also instruct my students to regularly check their online accounts. Taking advantage of automatic alerts sent by credit card companies and financial institutions is another good idea. The goal here is to nip any attempt at identity theft in the bud. Unfortunately, checking online accounts is something far too few people practice. It is not until after the fact that they realize they have been victimized.
The due diligence part of the equation involves taking what one has learned and putting it into practice. The thing about cybercrime is that victims make it too easy to commit. Yet it does not have to be that way. If people were more diligent about their home networks and their online behaviors, criminals would have a more challenging time victimizing them.
There are times when a person does everything right and still falls victim to cybercrime. But such incidents are the exception to the rule. More often than not, people voluntarily make themselves vulnerable. The reality is that you are as secure as you want to be. So if you’ve taken steps to make your home as secure as possible, why not do the same thing with your online presence?