Cyber Security

On my morning journey through the Internet, I happened to see a press release put out by EDS on Cyber Security tips. Following is their list:

  1. Know the threat. The online world is a dangerous place. Just like any city or town, there are “good” neighborhoods and “bad” ones. Likewise, the Internet community has an overwhelming number of good, decent people mixed in with a few “bad guys.” The bad guys can be right next door or across the globe, but both can be equally harmful to you and your personal data.
  2. Use the tools. Every home or small business user should install commonly available security tools such as anti-virus software, anti-spyware software and a personal firewall. It’s also important these programs and the computer’s operating system must be maintained with the most recent patches or updates. Probably the most common — and most easily remedied — security problem in home or small business computers is out-of-date software.
  3. Be smart online. Like the physical world, cyberspace has its “con-artist side” typified by bogus e-mails advertising “get-rich-quick” schemes, “can’t-miss” stocks and come-ons from the opposite sex who “can’t wait” to chat. All too often, these are teasers drawing users to Web sites with viruses, bot programs or other cyber risks. In many cases, anything goes and relatively few rules apply. Remember, if it is too good to be true, it probably is.
  4. Never respond to unsolicited requests for personal information. Be wary of e-mails from organizations or individuals asking for your personal information. Always ask or look for contact information on unsolicited requests and be skeptical. No reputable bank, for example, will e-mail you asking you to provide personal information for “account verification.” If you believe the content may be suspect, contact the company directly to verify.
  5. Beware of “phishing” e-mails. Phishing is one of the fastest-growing forms of online fraud for identity thieves. Phishing e-mails appear legitimate, often addressing you by name, which makes them even more convincing. Thieves sending these e-mails usually ask you to click on a link in the email that takes you to a phony Web site — if you are interested, it is best to go to the site yourself by typing the Web site name directly into your browser rather than clicking on the link provided in the e-mail. A skeptical attitude toward unsolicited e-mails is always the best policy, especially if you have never done business with a company before receiving an e-mail solicitation from it.
  6. Do not use personal information for passwords. Using information such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, names, e-mail addresses or telephone numbers as passwords can make you an easy target. Be sure your passwords contain at least eight characters and include numbers or symbols. To avoid misuse, do not write down passwords.
  7. Review privacy and security policies for the companies you do business with online. All reputable companies post a privacy and security policy or statement on their Web site. This should tell you what information the company collects, how it is used and what is shared. If you are concerned about your information being shared with other companies, make sure there is an option to keep your information confidential.
  8. Monitor online activity regularly. If you conduct business online, review your account statements regularly and consider using a separate credit card for online purchases or payments to ensure all transactions are in order. By reviewing online statements and transactions frequently, you could detect a theft and limit its damage. Identity thieves typically use stolen information for only a short period of time to avoid being caught. If you suspect a security breach, act quickly by contacting the companies you do business with immediately.

Many of the readers of Chiriquí Chatter have not come up in a technical world and have gotten involved with computers and the Internet to stay in contact with their children and grand children. Many also are now considering retiring in other parts of the world and are traveling to those areas. When they do, they assume that using the Internet will be the same as it was in their own home

Whether they were protected or not in their own home is dependent on how well they observed the tips above. However, another set are applicable if you visit countries, such as Panama.

AN Internet Cafe is the main interface between the majority of the population in Panama and the Internet. For about 50 cents an hour, they will connect, do school homework, chat with friends around the world, play games and visit sites that you might not visit.

When you, the traveler, use a PC in an Internet cafe, you will be using a PC that can easily have been infected with viruses and spyware, by a person before you. How well the Internet cafe maintains their protective software (anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewalls) is as variable as the number of cafes out there.

If you use Internet cafe’s and expect to check your bank web site or credit card site or ebay, etc, then you could easily be having your passwords and user ids picked up by spyware that are on the PC you are using. If you bring your own laptop, you will probably be able to connect it in one of the Internet cafes and you will be as secure as your own protection is set for.

If you use wifi, then you have an added set of problems. Security with wireless is even more risky. To be user friendly, wifi sites broadcast their address so you can easily connect. This is usually a very unsecure way to go. Good security would imply that the connection points were both using secure keys and this requires prior planning and not typically something the traveler or provider have time for.

My advice, if you plan on traveling and using the Internet, is to use your own laptop if possible. Second. to connect by ethernet cable and not wifi. Third, assume that you are going to access the Internet in an unsafe environment. If you are going to use wifi and don’t understand wifi security, then don’t access sites where you have to provide your user id and password.

When you travel, you wouldn’t plan on walking down a dark street in a town you are not familiar with. The same thing is true when visiting neighborhoods on the Internet while on vacation. Be careful out there. You may have been vaccinated, but how safe is your PC?

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