When you think about protecting yourself from identity theft, you may check to make sure your wallet is safe, or start wondering whether it was OK to tell your social security number to your local utility company. These days, however, many thefts happen remotely: Hackers collect information from your computer without you even noticing until your bank contacts you. According to Nasdaq, 18 percent of Internet-users in the United States reported experiencing some form of online identity theft in 2014, such as stolen financial or personal information. Protecting yourself from identity theft is a multi-layered project, but installing antivirus software is a basic first step. Here’s an overview of what you need to know.
How Online Identity Theft Works
Spyware is an umbrella term for various types of malicious software that you unknowingly download into your computer. These hidden programs may piggyback invisibly on innocent-looking free files offering music or helpful software, and once inside your computer, they search for vital personal information. Once the spyware program finds your financial accounts, it may keep a record of your keystrokes when you enter username or passwords. This information is then invisibly transmitted to a remote thief, who may be located on another continent. You can also open the door to spyware by opening infected email attachments, clicking on pop ups that look helpful or visiting malicious websites that masquerade as legitimate businesses.
Antivirus Programs Work as Gatekeepers
Your antivirus software runs in the background at all times. Before it lets you download or open any type of file or attachment, it will scan the download and compare its contents against a constantly updated directory of known viruses, worms and malware. If the antivirus program recognizes a problem, it will quarantine or delete the downloaded file before it enters your computer. In addition, antivirus programs recognize the characteristics of risky websites, and they will block your computer from accepting cookies or other data from such websites.
Updates and Full System Scans Keep You Safe
Cybercriminals are endlessly creative, generating new types of scams and malware every day. Good antivirus programs update themselves on a daily basis, automatically keeping your computer protected against each new problem as it appears on the Internet. For an extra layer of safety, the program will regularly run a thorough scan of every single file and program on your computer, to ensure you haven’t accidentally acquired any cyber-parasites.
Even sophisticated computer users need help protecting themselves against online identity theft. Installing effective spyware is one way to increase your safety as you venture out into the wilds of the online world.