The responsibility to seek out and use the most appropriate form of protection for a particular system lies with its user. If a user does not regard these duties with the appropriate seriousness, the consequences could be dire indeed. Another very threatening form of computer crime is the phishing scam.
Phishing involves email from an apparently legitimate source such as a bank or other place of business that requires the user to respond with personal information. Most commonly, banks are used as a front for these scams. The most common messages of this type is that a user's account has been disabled and will only be reinstated once the apparent company has received the specific requested data. When a user sends this data, the criminal can then use it for his or her own purposes, such as identity theft or credit card fraud.
According to WiredSafety.org (2011), phishing criminals target a very large amount of users with these types of e-mail, including a link to visit where the user must enter his or her personal data. Often, this will include a password. The Web site the user is required to visit is then also often created to appear legitimate, complete with company or bank logos. The information required then often includes credit card numbers, social security numbers, and bank account numbers. Obtaining this information then makes it extremely easy for the "phisher" to enter the victims personal finances to steal whatever he or she wishes.
Another phishing strategy is to use pop-ups that encourage users to enter sensitive information. The greatest threat associated with Phishing is the fact that these types of scams are extremely sophisticated. Users are therefore easily tricked into indeed "updating" their information as required. One very good way to combat this type of theft is an awareness of legitimate policies regarding users' personal and secure information. No legitimate bank or other company would ever ask for sensitive information by e-mail. Many of these institutions also combat spam by warning their clients regularly not to trust any requests for such information.
The WiredSafety.org (2011) site suggests several ways that users can use to identify phishing attempts from legitimate e-mail. Phishing e-mails can be identified by the type of information they request, as well as the message in the subject line. Typically, these e-mails claim that the user's account has come under review or is in danger of being cancelled or suspended. To prevent this, the user is encouraged to update his or her personal and account information. Phishing e-mails could contain spelling typos or oddly placed characters between words. These types of subject lines should be an immediate alarm that phishing is at issue.
The WiredSafety authors suggest that there are several ways to protect one's online data and to combat phishing. The first and most obvious step is not to reply to any e-mail asking for personal data. If there is any uncertainty regarding these types of e-mails, the user should contact the merchant in question to verify that the message is legitimate. This type of verification process is important from the merchant's point-of-view, who will become more aware of these phishing attempts on their customers.
The user should always take responsibility for his or her own safety by installing anti-virus software and firewalls, which also good tools to combat phishing. Other ways of taking such responsibility include staying up-to-date with the latest phishing scams and to always report suspicious e-mails or other phishing attempts.
Here also, the good continually combats the bad. According to WiseGeek (2011), continuous developments are in process to help users not only protect their information from spammers, but also to filter out phishing e-mails from their e-mail inboxes. The newest Internet Explorer, for example, incorporates several improved security features to help users in their need for safe and secure Internet usage.
Again, it is emphasized that the responsibility to check for updates regularly lies with the user. These updates could mean the difference between Internet security and being scammed by unscrupulous criminals who would think nothing of emptying a bank account.
Perhaps one of the most important platforms where user responsibility is of primary importance is social networking sites such as Facebook. All too often, the fervor and excitement of finding new "friends" encourages users to unveil more personal information than is wise in the strictest sense.
Social networking, forums and chat sites have sprung up in their hoards ever since the Internet became widely available. Now, with many different connection options available to suit every pocket, and an increasing amount of devices to access social networking sites, security has become increasingly difficult to monitor.
Web sites such as AllAboutCookies (2011) warn that divulging personal information is not only dangerous in terms of the "friends" who see it and can abuse it for activities such as stalking or other crimes, but also in terms of general Internet security. Search engines, for example, are highly powerful in terms of finding specific information from posts and messages on social networking sites. Users are therefore warned to be careful with their personal or sensitive information when communicating on public forums.
Specifically, the danger can be mitigated by using a newly created email address and an account that does not provide any personal information. This will combat the likelihood of spamming for public site users.
In conclusion, the Internet and social networking sites are a wonderful communication platform where users can interact with each socially, for business purposes, or to find information. Users must therefore take the necessary responsibility and precautions to ensure that this blessing does not become a curse in terms of theft or system breakdown. These precautions protect users and ensure happy, enduring surfing.
AllAboutCookies (2011). What other steps can I take to protect my privacy online? Retrieved from: http://www.allaboutcookies.org/faqs/protect.html
Bukisa (2010, Nov 8). Protecting Your Identity and personal information over the Internet. Retrieved from: http://www.bukisa.com/articles/390310_protecting-your-idemtity-and-personal-information-over-the-internet
McCandlish, S. (2002). EFF's Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy. Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.eff.org/wp/effs-top-12-ways-protect-your-online-privacy