If July 9, 2012 felt a lot like Jan. 1, 2000 to you, you're not alone. In the months leading up to the first day of 2000, computer users around the world learned about Y2K. Y2K was a supposed glitch that would cause potentially catastrophic results when computers attempted to cross over the century mark. Y2K came and went with nothing more than minor problems. On July 9, another scare was supposed to happen. In November 2011, the FBI announced that it had busted a group of Estonian cyberattackers that had infected more than 4 million computers. An estimated 500,000 of those computers were in the United States. Due to the nature of the virus, the FBI had to redirect the virus to another server until it could be uninstalled from infected computers. Any computer with the virus was supposed to be unable to connect to the Internet. July 9 came and went and only a small number of problems were reported.
Although these attacks failed to live up to their epic status, that doesn't mean that future attacks won't cause destruction. One U.K. cybersecurity firm called the amount of cyberattacks "astonishing" after telling the story of one U.K. business that lost more than $1 billion in revenue as a result of one attack. Here's how to prepare and hopefully avoid becoming a victim.
SEE: Identity Theft: How To Avoid It
It's understandable that you want your passwords to be easy to remember, but that's putting your computer and possibly your finances at risk. Passwords should be at least eight characters; include a combination of numbers, letters and symbols; and not be words related to you. Instead, use a memory device. Use the first letter of each word and include a date. "Ericka was born in Chicago in 1998." This might make your password "EwbiC1998$" (add a symbol of your choice at the end). One hacker reported that the way he entered most secured websites was by exploiting people's weak passwords.
Keep It Safe
Don't allow others to access your password protected sites without you being present. After he or she does, change your password. Even the most well meaning person can accidentally make you the victim of a cyberattack if his or her computer is infected.
Go Low Tech
If you have a spreadsheet of passwords or other digital files that are highly sensitive, consider keeping them on an old computer not connected to the Internet. If you don't have an extra computer, encrypt the files using one of the many free file encryption tools.
Another layer of protection could involve keeping the files in two locations. Copy the encrypted files to a DVD or flash drive and give it to a trusted family member or friend. If your computer is infected by a virus and temporarily unusable, those files are still available to you.
Stay out of Bad Neighborhoods
We know that some actions put us at greater risk of being victims of a crime. The Internet is the same way. Going to hacker sites, viewing adult content or going to sites that you know are scams put you at higher risk for a cyberattack than staying with more trusted sites.
Don't Fall for Pop-up
If an e-mail or pop-up window asks you to enter your username or password, don't do it. Instead, open your browser and go to the site directly. If you're still not convinced, call the company. Reputable companies will never ask you for your login information through an e-mail.
The Bottom Line
If you're worried about your bank or credit card company making you susceptible to cyberattack, it's more likely that your actions will make you a victim. Concentrate on what you can do to protect yourself and your computer. Check your financial accounts regularly to ensure no fraudulent activity has taken place.
SEE: 3 Ways Cybercrime Impacts Business