As I repetitively say, the Internet is an increasingly dangerous place. We shouldn’t have a spirit of fear, but we need to be aware of the dangers and learn how to protect ourselves.
One of the most favored ways the bad guys try to exploit us is through “phishing”. This is the use of fake URLs that make us think we are going to one site when we click on them, but which actually take us to another. The phony site we are delivered to is made up to look like its real counterpart, and so, unsuspecting, we dutifully enter our login information. Now the crook has our login and uses it on the real site – and gains access to our bank, our credit card, or other sensitive information like our email contacts.
There are a basic few things you can do to protect yourself.
- Enter a URL address in your browser manually rather than clicking on an email link when you are in doubt.
- Always examine a link carefully before clicking on it. If you’re in your browser or email program, make sure you have its Status Bar set to show at the bottom, because when you hover over a link the real URL will show there. And it may not be what is printed on the page you’re looking at.
- Another method is to use a password manager such as LastPass or Roboform in your Web browser. This way, once you get to a site, if your password manager doesn’t offer to log you in, you have a strong clue that something is wrong: it’s not recognizing the site as being valid.
The best defense, however, is to sharpen your skills at recognizing phony URLs. It may seem esoteric at first, but it’s actually like a game. OpenDNS, which runs a great DNS/web filtering service (all free, BTW), just came out with a neat quiz you can take to see how many sites you can correctly identify as real or fake. Go over to http://www.opendns.com/phishing-quiz and give it a whirl. Your fearless leader got 14/14, but I have to admit some of them had me scratching my head. Examine the URLs, and look at the pages themselves for clues.
Learn how to protect yourself, and then teach your children to do the same.
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