1. We send incredibly personal emails
Spear phishing, the act of sending targeted emails to get you to share financial information or passwords, can be exceptionally sophisticated.
“The old-style ones had spelling and punctuation errors, but today, it has really become an art,” says Mark Pollitt, former chief of the FBI’s computer forensic unit.
“They may call you by name, use your professional title, and mention a project you’re working on.”
Outsmart us: Spot phishing emails by looking for incorrect or unusual URLs (hover over links to see the actual URL address), requests for personal information or money, suspicious attachments, or a message body that’s actually an image.
Unless you’re 100 percent confident that a message is from someone you know, don’t open attachments or click links.
If you’ve been the victim of a data breach, take these 5 steps immediately!
2. We've got all the time in the world
Hackers have programs that systematically test millions of possible passwords.
“They go to sleep and wake up in the morning, and the program is still going, testing one password combination after another,” says Peter Fellini, a security engineer with Zensar Technologies, an IT and software services firm.
Outsmart us: Instead of a password, try a passphrase. Use letters and characters from a phrase and include special characters, numbers, and upper- and lowercase letters (Mary had a little lamb could become mh@Ll, for example).
Or consider a password manager that generates and remembers random, difficult-to-crack passwords.
Even then, some experts recommend unique passphrases for financial accounts in case the password manager gets hacked.
You may feel like your password is safe because it uses letters, numbers, and an ampersand, but don’t be so sure. Here’s 9 ways your computer password will get you hacked.
3. We sneak while you surf
A growing number of cyberattacks are arriving via “drive-by download,” says Giovanni Vigna, a computer science professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and cofounder of anti-malware provider Lastline Inc.
“You visit what looks like a perfectly harmless website,” he says, “but in the background, you are redirected to a series of other sites that send you an attack.”
Often even the website’s owner doesn’t know the site has been compromised.
Although search engines keep blacklists of known malicious sites, the bad sites are continuously changing.
Outsmart us: Make sure you install all available updates to your browser, or use a browser that automatically updates, like Firefox.
Vigna’s research has found that Internet Explorer users are most vulnerable to these attacks.
These former identity thieves confess the tricks they use to scam you right under your nose.