Jan 17, 2011

Consumers need to take more precautions against online identity theft

Tips: hide IP address, encrypt identity while on Wi-Fi, watch what you post

Although consumers are well aware of the risks they take being online and engaging in e-commerce, most of them aren’t taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves, according to a recent survey.
Seventy-five percent of respondents thought a firewall offered them enough protection to safeguard their identities online while another 62 percent believed antivirus software was enough protection against malware, according to the survey from Anonymizer Inc., a vendor of consumer online anonymity solutions.
While firewalls and antivirus software are important for protecting a computer, the tools don’t offer enough protection to safeguard a consumer’s privacy and identity while online, according to the company.
"Online identity theft is much more common than we think and consumers are inundated with conflicting information about what they need to do to protect themselves as they surf the Web," said Bill Unrue, president of Anonymizer, in a statement. "Consumers need to realize that the steps they take to protect their computer system are not the same measures they need to safeguard their privacy and identity when they're online. Firewalls and antivirus software simply aren’t enough."
According to the survey:
  • When they’re online, consumers are most concerned about identity theft (45 percent), privacy (41 percent) and computer viruses (45 percent);
  • Consumers are increasingly aware that their mobile devices are also vulnerable to malicious cyberactivity. Only 28 percent thought that their identities were secure on a mobile device ;
  • Eighty-five percent of respondents were aware that they were being profiled by advertisers as they surfed the Internet;
  • Eighty-five percent said they were aware that they were being stalked by cybercriminals.
To protect your identities online, Anonymizer said users should:
  • Have a plan that includes privacy and identity protection, computer system protection, browser protection, and a fraud alert service.
  • Hide your IP address. An IP address reveals seemingly harmless information such as your city, state, Zip code, and what browser you’re using, which can be exploited by cybercriminals . Install software that hides your IP address, and therefore your identity and online activities, from criminals, search engines, and advertisers.
  • Use Wi-Fi protection. Virus protection and protection against malicious software don’t protect you from cybercriminals who might be lurking on unsecure connections. When you access the Internet through a Wi-Fi hotspot — whether through a computer or mobile device — use an online anonymity product thatencrypts your identity .
  • Think twice before you type. Beware of what you post on social networking sites because cybercriminals are lurking there to try and steal your personal information.

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