The Internet can be a dangerous place

Image courtesy Jeroen Bennink / Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.Every day a new headline appears announcing another organization has suffered a massive data breach of client or customer information, or another serious security vulnerablity is discovered affecting some aspect of our digital lives. 

For most, cyber security can seem like a daunting subject, full of jargon and abstract concepts. However, there are real risks to your personal information, and sometimes even your physical safety. 

Your best defence is knowledge

The key to staying safe in today's hostile Internet environment is understanding the risks and the steps you can take to reduce your risks. Here are some key things to remember when it comes to Internet safety:

  1. Nothing is anonymous. Everything you do on the Internet is logged somewhere, by someone. Whether it's information retained by the websites you visit, by third-party tracking cookies such as those used by Google Analytics or Google Ads to track user behaviour, or information stored on your own device, there's always a trail to follow.  
  2. Your personal information is only as secure as the organization you entrust it to. Be careful when choosing what organizations or services you choose, whether it's a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter or an e-commerce platform such as Amazon, Ebay or the Apple iTunes Store; your information is only as secure as these organizations make it. Take the time to read the fine print in the Terms of Service or Privacy statements of any online services you use. You may be surprised by how few responsiblities some organizations have for protecting your information.
  3. Be careful how much information you share about yourself. It's surprisingly easy to gain a complete understanding of somone's life through their use of smartphones, the web and social media. Many people do not disable location sharing services on their devices and happily give away information that could lead complete strangers to understanding their daily patterns, where they live, work or go to school, and even how often they go to their favourite coffee shop.
  4. Be careful what sites you visit and what you download from the Internet. BitTorrent sharing sites may seem like a great way to get access to the latest TV shows or Hollywood movie, but remember - if the groups behind the site are willing to steal from artists and studios, why wouldn't they be more than happy to steal from you? Many files shared on peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent now contain malicious software (malware) designed to steal your personal information, particularly any information about bank accounts or credit cards. 

Your data is valuable

Gaining access to your email account can provide criminals with:

  • Access to your personal information (photos, messages and more)
  • Access to your financial services 
  • Access to your accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Netflix and more)
  • Access to your friends, family and co-workers for spam

Ways to stay safe

  • Always use strong, unique passwords for every website or online service you use. 
  • Stay informed about whether an your information may already have been stolen through sites such as haveibeenpwned.com
  • Stay informed of the latest security news and alerts by visiting this site often and by signing up for our monthly security newsletter
  • Take the free IT Security Awareness Course for UNB community members on D2L.