This hit film from 1983 was based on the story of a teenager who found himself in a situation that most kids only dream about: his parents were leaving him home alone while they went away on a trip. Left with explicit instructions to not use his father’s Porsche, Tom Cruise’s character quickly realized the advantages of his newfound freedom and disregarded all expectations of safe and responsible behaviour. Risky business ensued and over the next few days, he hung out with prostitutes and thieves, smoked weed, dumped his dad’s Porsche into Lake Michigan, and had his house burgled.
Fast forward to the year 2012, and we see a similarly destructive mentality manifest and play out every single day in a different form: online.
Despite the myriad warnings that security software companies like McAfee regularly extend to consumers, and despite the numerous reports that the number of malware threats is growing exponentially year over year, many users are still surfing the Web unprotected. In fact, according to a recent Leger Marketing survey commissioned by McAfee Canada in April 2012, the number of Canadians who believe they are protected from threats such as increased activity in the number of domains, IP addresses, and URLs with a malicious reputation has dropped significantly from 22 per cent to 10 per cent.
So what are these risky activities that many consumers are engaging in?
Risky Celebrity Searches
McAfee recently released the results of its McAfee Most Dangerous Celebrities study, which researched popular culture’s most famous people to reveal the riskiest persons on the Web. This year, Emma Watson replaced Heidi Klum as the most dangerous celebrity to search for online. What does this mean? It means that searching for photos, videos, and downloads of Emma will result in nearly a one-in-eight chance of landing on a malicious site designed to steal personal information.
Other celebrities to make the top 10 list include Jessica Biel, Eva Mendes, Selena Gomez, Halle Berry, Megan Fox, Shakira, Cameron Diaz, Salma Hayek and Sofia Vergara.
Risky Keyword Searches
One of the biggest mistakes consumers could make is to overlook the fact that cybercriminals are also information receptacles that soak up popular culture with the same tenacity as the rest of us. They know what the popular search terms are, and they use them as bait to lure Web users to sketchy sites to download malicious program files. The goal? To obtain personal and financial data.
Popular keywords are often associated with free items such as music, lyrics, screensavers, photos and videos. Anything from free music downloads and ringtones to games, game cheats and torrents is a great hiding place for malware.
Risky Online Behaviour
There’s a sense of trust and anonymity associated with being online, and it’s easy for us to let our guard down. We are more inclined to provide information that we would never share in the real world, and we forget that it’s all too easy for cybercriminals to take advantage of our state of naïveté. Risky behaviour includes the following:
- Providing a physical location in a social networking status update
- Sharing personal photographs
- Providing personal information such as mobile phone numbers
- Chatting with strangers
Tips for Safe Surfing
- Beware of sites that prompt you to download files before providing you with content. Consider streaming videos instead, and downloading content from established sites like NetFlix, CTV.ca, GlobalTV and CityTV.
- Free downloads are significantly the highest virus-prone search terms. Be sure to have the most up-to-date protection on all Internet-enabled devices including PCs, Macs, smartphones, tablets and netbooks. McAfee All Access is a cross-device security solution that enables consumers to secure all of their Internet-connected devices from one console, and provides consumers with worry-free protection at any connection point.
- Take advantage of McAfee SiteAdvisor software, which displays red, yellow, or green Web safety ratings within Internet search results pages. It also blocks risky websites, adds anti-phishing protecting, and helps users more safely surf, shop, and bank online.
- Be wary of private chat rooms, and be aware that posting messages to chat rooms reveals your email address to others.
- Avoid trading personal photographs online, especially with strangers. When sharing photos on social networks, consider using McAfee Social Protection, an app for Facebook that protects users’ photos from being shared without their permission. Offered as a Facebook app together with a browser plug-in, McAfee Social Protection lets users select which friends have access to their photos and makes pictures appear blurry to everyone else.
- Never reveal personal information such as your home address and phone number.
Practice Safe Surfing!
It’s important to be conscientious and aware of the new tactics being used by cybercriminals to access your information. Educate yourself, be diligent, use a secure network only, make strong passwords, install comprehensive antivirus software and monitor your financial statements regularly. These will go a long way in protecting you and your information when you surf online and on your mobile phone.