Stop! Thief! Online Identity Theft

Online Identity Theft
Online Identity Theft

Stop! Thief! Online Identity Theft.

How Your Identity is Being Stolen

If you’ve had your identity stolen, you know the problems it can cause. Even a simple unauthorized use of a credit or debit card can cost you hours upon hours of frustration, sometimes tying up needed funds. The U.S. Department of Justice says about 18 million people per year are victims of at least some form of identity theft. While many of these thefts are conducted on a massive scale, others are much more targeted. We may have a vision that these hackers are sophisticated technological wonder-kids or they originate from Nigeria but often the story is much closer to home and individualized. In some cases, it’s not all that complicated. In a recent highly publicized case, hackers obtained confidential data through a server using a default “admin” username and password that was never changed.

Stopping identity theft takes with understanding how thieves are getting your information from you.

Data Theft from Large Companies

This is the most publicized area of identity theft because it affects so many people and the theft is out of our individual control. Data breaches have occurred at companies ranging from retail stores to the recent breach at a major credit reporting agency. To conduct commerce today, we must be connected digitally these consumer-oriented companies need to verify identities. This means our personal information is stored on massive servers that are not only available to authorized employees and management but potentially to their technical contractors and, of course, hackers.

Skimmers

If you’ve ever used a credit or debit card at a fuel pump, grocery store, retail store, ATM or elsewhere, you may have been susceptible to a card skimmer. These skimmers or “card readers” commonly fit over the original card strip or insert without impairing the transaction. The skimmers read the data from your card’s magnetic strip and either store them to be retrieved by the thieves or digitally send them to a nearby device. In some cases, cameras are attached on or near them to see the PIN you have entered. Some skimmers use pads that fit over the original keypad of the device to gain your pin. While credit card chips are designed to limit this theft, many of the chipped cards still contain a strip to make them versatile enough to use in non-chipped machines. While skimmers may be difficult to detect, inspect any credit card machine closely before use and attempt to move the cardholder to see if it is the original. Cover one hand with the other when entering your PIN and make sure no one is looking over your shoulder.

Phishing

Phishing is one of the original forms of identity theft in the digital age, although today it is more sophisticated than ever. Phishing usually involves the thief sending out a large amount of bulk or spam emails, “phishing” for a bite. These emails may urge you to update your personal information and direct you to a fake website where you are encouraged to input your personal information voluntarily. These faux websites may even include the company name in the URL and are often designed to closely mimic a company’s original website. Phishing tactics may also claim you have an inheritance, won a contest or offer some other financial incentive to get your personal information.

Vishing

Vishing is essentially voice phishing using the telephone. The caller will often pose as a representative from a bank or credit card company and use suspected identity theft as the purpose of the call. They will ask you to verify your personal information. Instead, call your bank or credit card directly and ask if your information has been compromised.

Social Media and Internet Searches

There is already much data about you available on the internet without adding to the problem voluntarily on social media. Many users commonly display their birth dates, emails, places of work, education, work experience, and even phone numbers and addresses online. They can easily pose as a “friend” to get even more information. If you use social media, be careful of what data you make available and make sure only invited friends have access to your profile.

Online Identity Theft

Handing Your Credit Card to Someone Else

When you hand your credit card to a server at a restaurant, a clerk at a hotel or even let a family member borrow it, you are increasing the odds of identity theft. The front and back can be quickly and discretely photographed, videoed or copied for unauthorized use. New cards can be created from the data on your magnetic strip and all it takes is a simple card reader that can be plugged into any computer.

Trash

If you don’t have a paper shredder, get one and use it. Many identity thefts come from your trash that contains personal mail and account data from banks, credit cards, and even tax forms. A credit card statement alone contains a wealth of information that when combined with just a few more pieces of info can lead to problems. Pre-approved credit card offers are a must-shred item.

Regular, Old Fashioned, Theft

When you realize how much personal information is contained in your wallet, cellphone, and even in your car’s glove compartment you will take better steps to protect it. Protecting your cash and credit cards isn’t enough today. Not when thieves will find your personal information just as, if not more, valuable. Always know where your phone, wallet and personal is located.

Being careful about identity theft is not paranoia, it is prudent. Be cautious about how and where you share your personal data including cell phone calls in public places. Make sure you only share info on websites with a secure Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (https) address that designates your information is encrypted. If you conduct e-commerce on a website, make sure you are protecting your customer’s information safely with encryption. Be cautious and minimize your risk of identity theft.

The Serious Business of Guarding the Images Used on Your Website

How To Protect Your Images
How To Protect Your Images

How To Protect Your Images

For those of us who have lived through the early, “Wild West” days of the internet, we can recall the frequent lawlessness of the experience. It was not uncommon at all to come across “sharing” websites for the distribution of music, images, films, software, and other intellectual property without authorization of the rightful owners. This was, and continues to be, theft, pure and simple. It didn’t take long for lawyers to get involved. Courts quickly agreed that online intellectual theft is no different from stealing someone’s car. Companies from software producers to movie production houses began pursuing those they suspected were guilty of it.

While such dark places are still available online, more and more companies and individuals are taking steps to protect themselves. This includes those involved in the construction of websites. After all, if you’ve taken the time to make sure a website was designed and constructed using completely legal and authorized images, or more importantly, if you created the images or took the photography yourself, you don’t want someone else coming along and taking them. It’s not quite the “Wild West” it once was but it is still a significant problem and serious business. There are ways, however, of protecting yourself and your images.

Where to Start?

You can start by seeing if you have a problem with stolen images. This can simply be accomplished by typing the name of any images you use into the Google image search. Some who “borrow” images or graphics, however, know they can lessen their chances of being caught by changing the name of the image file. The Google image search may not turn up your photo or image. You can search for more generic names that may fit your image if you are inclined to investigate further.

In a Google image search, seeing the image as used on your site should be expected but if it is an original image you created or a photo you have taken and someone else is using it without your knowledge, it can be a problem. This is likely because you did not take the necessary steps to protect it.

Now, you may say to yourself “Hey, but isn’t that like blaming me for not locking my house and allowing someone to steal my property?” Perhaps. But let’s also just add that it is always better to make sure your house is locked, to begin with. In this case, let’s make sure your images are as safe as possible.

“How To Protect Your Images”

How To Protect Your Images

Better Protecting Your Images

You can take steps to protect your images, but just as locking the door on your house won’t prevent someone from entering your home, most steps just make it tougher for an image theft to occur. Here are some of the more common steps you can take in protecting your images online.

  • Disable the right-click copy option. One of the first skills we learn on a computer is that by right-clicking, we are given the option to “copy”. It didn’t take long for us to learn it works on website images as well if they are unprotected. WordPress has an easy to download and use plug-in that will accomplish this for you. The plug-in also has some other clever protective services.
  • Disable hotlinkingHotlinking is the nasty little practice of someone using both the benefits of your image and your bandwidth to share that image. For the most part, it is considered illegal but, of course, that doesn’t stop some from engaging in the practice. While disabling hotlinking may not totally prevent someone from using an image, at least it will prevent the indignity of having them use your bandwidth to do it. To disable hot linking in WordPress, use an FTP program and go to the main directory folder and open the .htaccess file. Cut and paste the following code into the .htaccess file:

/* hotlink blocking */

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$

RewriteCond %{HTTP REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?yourwebsite.com [NC]

RewriteCond %{HTTP REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.com [NC]

RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [F]

Of course, replace “yourwebsite.com” in the 4th line of the coding with the name of your website. This will prevent someone from hotlinking to your image while the 5th line still makes your image available to Google for search purposes.

  • Use a watermark. Watermarks on an image have been protecting photographs since long before the internet. A Watermark is a discrete but visible marking over the image that usually bears the name of the owner. Most photographers use them on proofs before clients purchase the non-watermarked prints. They are still an effective way to protect your images but can be distracting to your own viewers. Those skilled at photoshopping have also been known to be able to cover watermarks.
  • Place a DMCA badge on your website. DMCA is dedicated to stopping thieves from stealing content from websites. While they have a suite of products, you can get started by placing a DMCA badge on your page that will deter theft. With a registered badge, you have the resources behind you to take down any content that is used without your approval.
  • Place a copyright notice on your website or on images. You automatically have the right to any content created for your website. By placing a copyright notice on your website you are letting others know that you know this. You should also keep proof that you created the content. While this can sometimes be difficult to prove or enforce, it is another form of locking the doors on your house. It is very easy to do, so do it.

While sharing images without the permission of the owner can be problematic, sharing solid, helpful information about making your website secure can be very helpful. If you have found this article useful or if you know someone who might find it interesting then, please feel free to share it.

It’s Easy Going “Green”

Green Web Hosting - Going Green
Green Web Hosting - Going Green

Going Green

Operating on an environmentally friendly basis is becoming more important for both individuals and companies. From using recyclable shopping bags to more energy efficient automobiles, we are all taking steps in protecting our planet. Even if you do not have a bricks and mortar business, you may be surprised at some of the steps you can take and some of the benefits you can enjoy by operating in environmentally responsible ways.

For large and small companies alike, operating “green” is not only the right thing to do for the Earth, it is becoming increasingly important for the profitability of your company.

What Is Operating Green?

Operating green means looking at every aspect of your company and choosing more energy efficient and environmentally friendly options. Operating green means choosing more efficient lighting, reusing or recycling waste, using more fuel efficient vehicles, and looking for more energy efficient power options.

There is one critical step in operating your business on a green basis that is relatively simple to take. It is choosing green companies when selecting your vendors. Choosing environmentally friendly resources can make it easy for your company to become green.

Ways Operating “Green” Is Good for Your Business

When you select partner companies who are operating in an environmentally friendly way, you begin to build a network of green vendors. This alone makes you a greener company, even if your business is limited in what it can do directly to become more Earth friendly. This is particularly true of digital and internet-based companies who may not have a large brick and mortar presence.

Operating green and using green partners is good for your company in multiple ways:

  • It will likely save you money. It is pretty simple, saving energy saves you money. Business and vendors who operate in environmentally friendly ways frequently operate more efficiently. This often makes them more cost-effective and competitively priced.
  • It enhances your marketing. Promoting your green initiatives can help position your company better in its marketing. More consumers and businesses are in search of companies to partner with who operate in Earth friendly ways. By making green choices internally and with your vendor partners, you will likely attract more consumers. Displaying a Green Seal on your website can attract like-minded customers.
  • It is the right thing to do. Most of us understand that being less wasteful, saving energy, and recycling is the right thing to do. Making environmentally sustainable choices in your business will make you feel better about how you operate and make your potential customers feel better about working with you.

For those in search of green web hosting, it seems Iceland may be the perfect location.

Green Energy and Web Hosting in Iceland - Going Green

Green Energy and Web Hosting in Iceland

More businesses are discovering the green benefits of web hosting in Iceland. Why is choosing hosting in this secluded country a popular choice for companies looking to operate green? There are two important reasons.

  1. A cool climate. Keeping servers cool in a data center is critical to their uninterrupted operation. Servers themselves create heat and, of course, there’s the outside temperatures to manage. Air conditioning in data centers in popular locations like New York and other large cities use a significant amount of energy. This also contributes to the costs of hosting there. Iceland’s cooler climate uses less air conditioning and less electricity.
  2. Cheap, renewable energy. Iceland is noted for its renewable energy initiatives. As energy use for data centers increases across the world, this is a country that is making the most of renewable resources. Iceland is also noted for its low energy costs, especially when compared to large cities. Hydroelectric and geothermal power supply the vast majority of energy in the country with fossil fuels accounting for less than .2% of energy production.

With energy contributing as the single largest expense for data centers across the globe, it is easy to see why more companies are selecting Iceland web hosting.

Choosing Orange to be Green

OrangeWebsite.com is your 100% green web hosting solution. Our data center is located in Iceland, using geothermal and hydroelectric power to run our servers. We operate in other environmentally responsible ways as well. Most of our staff operates remotely from home, reducing traffic, fuel use, emissions, and use of building space and energy. Not only are we supporting green initiatives, we are trying to reverse the effects of over-population and pollution by participating in the Canope Project. This project is replenishing rain forests by planting 250-1000 new trees each month. Placing our Green Site seal on your website lets your visitors know they are working with an environmentally responsible organization.

For affordable, socially, and environmentally smart web hosting with a guaranteed 99.9% uptime, contact OrangeWebsite.com, where it’s easy being green.