As web reels from hacks, sex videos, here's how you can stay safe online

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2019 06:15 AM | Updated as of Apr 06 2019 06:17 AM

A hooded man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture. Kacper Pempel/Illustration/Reuters

MANILA – When it comes to guarding your online presence, prevention is key, a cyber security professional said, as prominent people here and abroad fall prey to internet attacks.

In early April, a sex video of singer-composer Jim Paredes leaked, prompting him to issue a public apology. A technology journalist said Paredes, who is outspoken on politics, could have been attacked.

In February, the world's richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer of blackmail, using private photos that were obtained without his permission.

There were about 142 reported violations of the country’s Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act in the first 3 months of 2019, data from the National Bureau of Investigations showed.

There were 106 cases recorded for the first 2 months of the year, according to the data of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG).

But many cyber crimes could be prevented by observing the following tips for responsible internet use, said ABS-CBN information security head Jay Gomez. 

MEMORIZE PASSWORDS

Avoid settings that allow "auto-remember" passwords when using the internet especially when visiting banking websites. 

For strong passwords, replace letters with special characters and use whole phrases instead of just a word. 

ENCRYPT DATA

When encrypted, data is converted into codes instead of readable information. Data from encrypted devices will not be accessible even if phones and laptops are stolen. 

Free encryption software are available for mobile devices and personal computers, including Bitlocker for Microsoft and FileVault for Apple products, Gomez said. 

USE ANTIVIRUS, VPN

Families are encouraged to subscribe to anti-virus software for computers and mobile devices. Some products also offer filtering systems to prevent minors from accessing suspicious websites. 

A VPN will offer a second, more secure layer of protection when using the internet. With a VPN, a user’s IP address is replaced by another one provided by the VPN network, making the user’s location untraceable. 

'ATTENDED' REPAIR

Users should monitor repair of their devices, especially when it involves the operating system, to lessen the chance of devices getting hacked. 
 
MINDFUL APP PERMISSION

Be mindful when allowing permission for downloaded apps since it could mean letting the program access data stored in devices. 

When joining or subscribing to social media pages and other online groups, make sure that profiles are set to private at the time of sign-up. 

AVOID OVER-SHARING

Posting in social media pages should be kept to a minimum. “Don’t share more than what you need to share,” Gomez said. 

Gomez also recommends limiting the audience of posts to immediate family and friends.

Internet users are also advised to avoid real-time posting of photos and events. Posts can be published a few hours or even a day behind.

START AT HOME

Parents should always monitor passwords of their children, the sites they visit as well as their social media friends to prevent them from being exposed to bad actors on the internet, Gomez said. 

BONUS: HOW TO REACT WHEN COMPROMISED

If a user’s data or private information are collected and compromised, Gomez recommends doing the following:

  •  Change all credentials or passwords
  •  Delete or unsubscribe from suspicious pages and applications
  •  Enable two-factor authentication for accounts
  •  Report the incident to the authorities.

“If it causes due harm, report it to law enforcement. If for some reason it was used for a fraudulent activity then by all means report it to the PNP Anti-cybercrime group, report it to the NBI because they have the tools," Gomez said.

-- with a report from Michael Joe Delizo, ABS-CBN News