Between viruses and phishing scams, there are many online threats you should be aware of when browsing the web. Using the internet for online banking or shopping is convenient, but it also means that you must take action to protect your data and stay safe from hacking and identity theft. Read on to learn more about the three most prevalent online threats.

Malware

Malware and viruses are harmful programs that you can download by accident, such as unknowingly opening a malicious email attachment. Your computer can also become infected if you visit a webpage that has harmful code on it.

The best way to protect yourself from malware is to install antivirus software on your computer. It's designed to monitor programs that are downloaded or installed on the computer and block viruses. You can also use your antivirus software to scan existing files and programs.

You can also consider using a firewall as an additional layer of protection. Your firewall will act as a filter that lets some programs connect to the internet and block those that aren't authorized to send or receive data. That prevents malware from spreading or broadcasting your data.

You can lower your risks by updating the software you use, especially your browser. Malware often exploits flaws that developers fix constantly by releasing patches and updates.

Phishing

Phishing scams are engineered to obtain your personal information such as login credentials. Phishing techniques are becoming more sophisticated and they're easy to fall for.

Phishing emails are a common type of scam you're likely to encounter online. Here's how you can recognize them:

  • The template and title of the email often mimics legitimate emails from well-known banks or shopping sites.
  • Phishing emails often have poor grammar and spelling.
  • There is usually a sense of urgency to trick you into following a link.
  • The address of the sender may come from a domain name that looks similar to the URL of a legitimate business.

You can usually recognize phishing emails because the sender's address or URL you are asked to click on is different from the legitimate domain name of the entity the email is spoofing.

Phishing is even spreading beyond emails. Scammers have used similar techniques on social media by sharing links in comments or messages and asking you to log in on another site. Common tactics include befriending you and asking you to connect on another social media platform, and posing as tech support employees.

SMishing

SMishing is another threat to watch out for. It's similar to phishing, but targets mobile users via text messages.

SMishing attempts can be difficult to recognize. Scammers will send a text message that urges you to click on a link. The link will either install malware on your device or connect you to a spoofed webpage that prompts you to enter login credentials.

Those text messages often have a sense of urgency and ask you to follow a link to confirm your info or to cancel a service you never signed up for. Protect your mobile device with an antivirus and firewall application and never click on links in text messages if they come from an unknown party.

Credit First National Association wants to help you stay safe online. Follow those tips to avoid malware, phishing and SMishing, and always remember to question the origin of emails, text messages and download links.