Although computers have become more reliable and secure as technology has evolved, no computing system, social media account, or bank information is truly secure. Just as technology has advanced, so have the ways criminals and scammers can acquire your personal information. According to Ben Taylor from BestVPN.com in fact, internet users had a one in three chance of getting personal information stolen in 2016.
Computer viruses are as old as computers themselves – whether you click on a pop up saying you are the “1,000,000th customer” on a website, or you download less-than-reputable software, your likelihood of having personal information stolen only increases. The most common type of computer virus, the infamous Trojan horse (which comes from a Greek story of the same name,) infests your computer with malware, often with devastating consequences. Passwords, bank account information, and even social security numbers can be stolen – and unlike traditional theft, the perpetrator cannot always be found. If someone snatches your wallet or purse at night, the authorities can work with security footage and eyewitness accounts. But with Trojan horse viruses, cybercriminals may be operating anywhere in the world.
As fake news continues to be a problem (even in colloquial conversation,) fake websites continue to rise in (un)popularity as well. Trojan horses can occasionally be avoided – the aforementioned “you are the 1,000,000th customer” comes to mind. But fake websites pose a more insidious threat; these sites are often engineered to look exactly like reputable businesses such as banks and loan agencies. A case from March of this year is a perfect example – Laura Hunter, a woman from Seattle who describes herself as a liberal, had her identity stolen by the far-right Conservative Daily Post. The site used her information to set up a Facebook account in her name and posted anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim posts. Hunter is currently suing the media outlet for $50,000.
But what is to be done about this identity theft epidemic? Some solutions are easier than others. Changing your password may seem like a no-brainer, but a Daily Mail investigation found that 17 percent of internet users have a password of “123456.” Astonishing facts like this are catnip to hackers who delight in stealing your information. Another study done by PC World found that a fifth of PC’s don’t have antivirus software. Installing PC Protect, Norton, or any trustworthy software can decrease your chances of having personal information stolen. Most important, however, is being a savvy internet user. Have you ever heard the phrase “don’t believe everything you see on the internet?” Although it is a cliché, it is true nonetheless. Before typing your credit card number or address into a website, do your research. Have other people had issues with the site? Then don’t trust it. When navigating the treacherous seas of the internet, it is best to tread carefully.