Definition: hacker [ˈhakər] a person who uses computers to gain unauthorized access to data.
Decades ago, hacking used to be something of a joke. A tech nerd living in their parents’ basement would see if they could gain access to the CIA or send a digital virus around the world. But today, it’s much more pervasive and sinister.
“This is now organized crime and their intentions are financially motivated,” says cyber security expert Daniel Tobok, CEO of CytelligenceTM. “They want to make money and they want to steal money.”
Tobok says although we’re all vulnerable to cybercrime, seniors are much most at risk. “They understand how to protect themselves from a bad guy at the door, they don’t always understand that the person pretending to be your friend on Facebook® could be a hacker trying to steal your information, access your computer to obtain your financial information and so much more.”
“I think everybody can be dumb at times,” says Dr. Tom Keenan, author of Technocreep. “People are generally pleasant, but if a weird, creepy person came up to you in the park and started asking you about your medical history and stuff like that and offered you a free magazine, you’d probably run the other way.” Yet when it comes to giving free information away on social media, we’re sharing too much.
Awareness is the Key
Tobok stresses that education, awareness and being cautious, even a little paranoid, is healthy and could prevent half of cyber security issues.
Phishing is a major point of entry for criminals. This is where you’re sent an email, text message, Facebook message or more asking you to click on a link, open up an attachment, change your password etc. The emails can look very real, like they’re coming from your bank, a friend, the government or a retailer – but they’re not real. They’re coming from criminals. And with our busy lifestyles, it’s easy to not pay attention and accidentally click on something you didn’t mean to. However, that one misstep can allow hackers to see everything you’re doing on your computer. If you went to their fake website and entered in your personal information, they now have that info, too.
5 Tips to Protect Yourself Now
- Never give any personal information over the phone, email, text or social media to anyone.
- Don’t click on jokes, attachments or links that you aren’t 100% sure are authentic.
- Use antivirus software and make sure your computer, smartphone and tablet are up-to-date.
- Don’t use free WiFi – especially if you’re checking your online banking or using your credit or debit card to purchase something online.
- Be careful using free apps, games and software – they’re free for a reason and could be using your computer, phone or tablet to track you, install malware (malicious software) or gain access to your sensitive and financial information – or worse.
If you have a smartphone, it may not feel like it, but you have a very powerful computer in your hands. You need to know how to protect yourself while using it.