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Common Security Threats Online

A student recently returned a borrowed laptop to the school where I work, and the first thing I noticed about it was that he had taped over the camera lens. When I asked him about it, he said, “people on the internet can watch you when you are online.” I was a bit shocked and then alarmed to hear him say that. And it got me thinking about the common security threats we face online every day.


The most every day for internet users is a virus popping up when they least suspect it. Every time I download something from the internet, I double and triple check the source of the file because I’ve had my fair share of computer viruses. The most recent form of a virus that is scaring the pants off people, however, is the Ransomware viruses. These type of viruses hold your computer “hostage” until you pay to have it released. When I first started using a computer in the early 90s the only thing I had to worry about was a trojan virus – aptly named because it snuck in on an email and attacked your computer. Viruses don’t always destroy computers though; for example, a friend of mine installed a virus on our co-worker’s computer and every time he hit the spacebar on his laptop, the CD-ROM tray popped open on his computer. It was harmless fun, but internet viruses are far from fun. While the virtual private network may be a good solution in case you have this issue often. 


There are three types of hackers that are making their way around the internet today: white hat hacker, black hat hacker, and grey hat hacker. White and grey hat hackers are not really anything to be too concerned about: they are curious individuals who just “want to see what will happen if…” Grey hackers do walk a fine line though and can cross over into more “black hat” territory sometimes because they will hack a system and then charge the company money to fix it, intending to show them weak spots in their security. Black hat hackers are often malicious hackers that intend to corrupt or steal information from individuals and companies.


Staying Safe Online

So what about that camera that stares me in the eye when I am working on my laptop? And what about that student who remarked I should be careful with what I am doing online because “they are watching”? It turns out, it’s not all hocus-pocus anymore. There have been countless stories laying claim to the notion of “being watched” or having had their computer software hacked. There’s also talk of mobile phone cameras being accessed without our knowledge. The best ways to stay safe online are to maintain your anti-virus software programs, and to continually change your passwords. Don’t be careless with your information. There are people who want it and can get it if they want it badly enough. Stay safe out there.