Cybersecurity 101: What You Need To Know To Stay Safe Online

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October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness about staying safe online. From gaming, to social media, to online dating, we live in a world that is more connected than ever before. The internet touches almost all aspects of daily life, whether you realize it or not. Most of the time it makes our lives better, but on some unlucky occasions, it does the opposite.

Scammers use digital tools like online dating to lure in unsuspecting victims and their tactics become more sophisticated all the time. If you don’t learn how to protect yourself, you could be putting yourself at risk for emotional, financial, or even physical harm, With Cyber Security Awareness Month just passed, now is the perfect time to talk about prevention.

California-based security technology company ThreatMatrix has identified five of the top cybersecurity threats to be aware of when looking for love online:

  1. Fake Profiles. Cybercriminals use fake profiles (including photos), to gain trust and take advantage of online dating customers. They may also share malicious links with their dating matches, which can result in malware being downloaded on the user’s device. They’re not looking for love, but they are looking for access to your credit cards and bank accounts.
  2. Credit Card Fraud. Speaking of credit cards, cybercriminals frequently use online dating sites to “test” cards that have been stolen. If the card is accepted while purchasing virtual goods, such as an online dating membership, the criminal will move on to purchasing physical goods.
  3. Identity Theft. Your credit card details aren’t the only sensitive information a scammer may try to steal. If a tech-savvy cybercriminal gains access to your address book or stored contacts, even more sensitive information may be on the line, and it could end in identity theft.
  4. Mobile Dating. Everyone is jumping on the mobile dating train these days, adding an extra layer of complication to their safety. Dating apps that use geolocation enable cybercriminals to identify a user’s exact location. If it’s clear that you’re away from home, especially if you’re traveling, criminals can seize the opportunity to rob your house.
  5. Love Scams. This is not the passionate romance you were hoping for when you joined a dating service, though it’s probably one of the digital scams you’re most familiar with. Some fraudsters create fake accounts and ask their matches to wire money, often saying they need the cash in order to meet. The victim sends the scammer a money order or check, and poof - the scammer disappears, never to be heard from again.

What can you do to protect yourself? Keep profiles private when you can; it makes it more difficult for scammers to steal your photos. Don’t accept friends or followers you don’t know. Think twice (and then once again, for good measure) about any personal information you share online. Regularly search your name on search engines and social media to check if false profiles exist.

The key to staying safe is keeping vigilant.