What’s Lurking on the Internet? Find Out if Your Device is at Risk
We live in an era where everything can be found on the internet. Starting from information for an assignment to news updates. In the past few years, the reach of the internet has expanded by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, cyber scams and crimes have also increased at the same time.
There are so many facilities online that it’s hard to tell the real ones from the fake. Without a secure internet connection, both your device and all the information on it could be in danger and you wouldn’t even know it.
What’s out there?
There are endless possibilities with the internet, but this also comes with risks. When you go online, the interaction is not just between you and the webpage or application you use. There is more involvement, and the most common ones are cookies, viruses, and malware. Cookies are not exactly harmful and even some malware can stay on your device without causing any major damage. But here’s what you need to know about them:
These are essentially small files containing data. They are exchanged between you and the website you’re browsing. These were created so that when you revisit a site, they can verify it’s you. Also, they are used to make relevant suggestions based on your previous visit. Most websites do it and it usually causes no damage. However, third-party cookies can gain unauthorized access to your data. They can use it to track your browsing history and show you targeted ads.
Malware comes in various forms. Here are the most common ones you might come across:
Worms – Worms were originally introduced by e-mails. Open one mail with a worm in it and the entire device gets infected, not to mention other devices connected to the same network. They can replicate themselves and go about infecting files without any interaction from the user.
Trojans – Just like the famous Trojan horse, Trojans are malware that disguises themselves as legitimate software. They can enter via websites or e-mails. Do you notice a pop-up sometimes that says “your device is infected, download this anti-virus”? That’s the work of a Trojan.
Ransomware – This malware gets hold of your data and holds it hostage until you pay off a ‘ransom’. They often ask for a cryptocurrency and plenty of users pay off to unlock their files. These can also delete or encrypt backup files you may have in your device.
Adware – Even if you don’t know much about malware, you have probably heard of this. Adware stays in some link on websites and when you click them redirect you to a malicious ad. They usually try to promote some products or services by interfering with your activity.
Spyware – Spyware spies on your activity. They infiltrate your device and take your personal information. They can take sensitive information and sell it to third-parties. Some of them can mask themselves as websites and log your data.
Viruses are also malware but they cause more damage. This is because when a virus enters your device, it will attach itself to programs on the device. It replicates itself by modifying the program and inserting its own code. Hence, every time the program runs, the virus is actively running in the device. The ability to attach to a certain program gives viruses the power to perform major actions.
How does it affect your device?
Unfortunately, your device cannot protect itself from these – however advanced it may be. Although these are initiated with computers, even smartphones and tablets are not safe from cyber attacks. Even if you buy the best Windows tablet or the latest iPad, it can still be vulnerable. Here are some ways your device can be infected:
- Some malicious toolkits called exploit kits search for vulnerabilities on your device. If they find holes in the built-in security, they will enter through the hole and infect your files.
- Hackers use a technique called man-in-the-middle. They connect to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network and look for vulnerable devices connected to it. Weak passwords or low-security devices are their targets. They can slide between the user and the website they’re using and even steal sensitive information like bank details.
- Another malicious technique that hackers use is man-in-the-browser. Here, a malware that found its way into your device will enter your browser when you open it and record all the information you enter. It can then transmit the data virtually to the hacker.
- Malvertising is a common cyber-attack used by criminals. They work like adware but instead have a code within the link that can infect your device.
How can you be secure?
You need to practice safe browsing. Safe browsing is not just about being careful of the sites you visit. You need to take proactive measures for the security of your data and your device.
- Get an antimalware or antivirus program. Do not download a random free one just for the sake of it. Do some research and buy a reliable program.
- Always use a VPN when connected to a public network. VPNs secure your data provide a significant amount of cybersecurity.
- Update your device on time. Whenever you get a security patch update, do it immediately. The absence of these patches makes your device vulnerable.
- Be wary of what you download and from where. If you happen to find files or apps that you did not download yourself, uninstall and remove them immediately.
- Avoid suspicious links, for example, pop-ups that say ‘your computer is infected’ or ‘you have won a prize’. You can also set your browser to block pop-up ads.
- Check your address bar. Some links containing malware take you to a different site or ad that looks the same as your original website. So if anything seems off, check the address bar to see where you are.
- Get help from Google. They can give you a diagnosis on the website if you just copy and paste the URL in Google Transparency Report. This is reliable and strongly recommended.
The internet is a vast platform. It has grown so rapidly and has a far reach. As more software is developed, malware isn’t far behind. Authorities all over the world continue to work towards improving their cybersecurity. But it may not be possible to eliminate threats fully.
Your best bet is to know the risks, so you can mitigate them. Keep track of what you have on your device and do not get carried away by ‘free offers’. Better safe than sorry!