Caution must be maintained against misuse of the Internet or other electronic means to threaten, harass, or stalk an individual or an organisation.

During the past two weeks we discussed the essentials of cyber security, including the several risks involved. Let us now look at a few more hazards that are part of work in the cyber world and a few reliable steps for protection.

Cyberbullying/ cyberstalking

This involves the misuse of the Internet or other electronic means to threaten, harass, or stalk an individual or an organisation. There may be false accusations. The term cyberbullying is often confined to children acting against children. Cyberstalking may be among people belong to any age group.

Cyberbullying may lead to different forms of crimes among children as well as adults. Sometimes your passwords may be stolen and cyberbullying done through proxy or impersonation. Imagine your embarrassment if hate mail or porn material reaches someone from your email id, or someone makes a vulgar chat from your id, without your knowledge.

Unless you are cautious about such possibilities of impersonation, you may land in trouble. It is also possible that someone makes a mischievous web site in your name. Parents have to protect their children from falling victim to cyberbullying. You should never respond to strange cyber material without a second thought. Skip any suspicious mail; never open it. Tracing the source is often difficult; this encourages bullies in their nefarious activities.

Generally it is wiser to ignore threats from bullies than give a hostile response. If the threat exceeds tolerable limits, you may report it to the police cell dealing with such cases, along with a detailed diary of events that would help cyber cell investigation.

Rootkits

Rootkit is a set of software tools that might have been installed along with a software package in your computer. Perhaps it could have been injected into your operating system by an attacker. The rootkit remains hidden. It can draw information or modify programmes.

Botnets form another kind of hidden threat. (Botnet is a portmanteau word, robot + network.) Botnets involve a group of computers with Trojan horse or malicious software installed in them. A master computer sends commands to the slaves. Attackers gain access to your computer and cause damage by distributing spam, modifying information, and other ways.

Good security habits are the solution to keep away from the threats of rootkits and botnets. Use of updated antivirus software, firewall, and passwords difficult to crack are some of the steps you can adopt.

The Wi-Fi risk

Wi-Fi is a wireless local area network that uses radio waves to connect computers to the Internet. When you are in a distant place away from home, you can conveniently use Wi-Fi for browsing. A transmitter linked to an internet connection provides a ‘hotspot'. This transmits the connectivity over radio waves. You would get the hotspot facility in hotels and airports. However, you have to exercise caution to prevent loss of information. There would be an SSID (service set identifier), which is a wireless local area network.

Computers can get connected to the network. Since there is no physical connection involved, hackers may find it easy to steal your information. It is also possible that cyber crooks provide bogus hotspots with the primary intention of cheating surfers. A hot spot impostor may install malware in your computer. Changing the network passwords and limiting the service to authentic users by genuine providers would protect the interests of the clients. Encryption of files and use of firewalls are possible ways of protection. Carrying a network connection device supplied by a reputed provider is a safe alternate option.

Fire-fighting

The presence of spyware may show many unexpected results when you go for normal operation. The machine may respond too slowly to your commands, keys may not work, or windows may show too many pop-ups or random errors. If your computer gets infected, you should take urgent steps to limit the damage. You should get professional help if you are not sure of what to do in a crisis. De-linking from the Internet will shield your computer from further access from attackers or hackers. You can make a full scan of the computer using an updated version of your anti-virus software and remove spyware.

Safeguard your privacy

All users of the Internet stand exposed to some extent in a public domain. The IP address of your computer and the details of your browsing including the pages visited and the durations are not secrets. Malicious sites may be able to gather further information from cookies or other files in your computer. In other words, you do face an element of risk whenever you browse the net. Attackers will be interested in stealing vital information relating to business and financial organisations.

At any stage you should not share any personal information including your email id or credit card details with an unknown site. Authentic sites would show their privacy policy, which should be to your satisfaction. Avoid suspicious sites as you browse.

Keep in mind that a competent hacker may be able to trace a file that you have deleted ‘permanently'. It may still be in some part of the disc. So also ensure that old floppies, CDs, pen drives, and computers are smashed before they are pushed to garbage bins.

There are programmes like ‘Secure Erase' which will erase data with certainty and overwrite every single track on the hard drive.