What is Online Security and How to be an Online ‘Ninja’

No one realized in the 1980’s just how big an explosion The World Wide Web would have on the world. By the new millennia, more than a million commercial sites and millions of individual users had ‘popped’ up, spawning a global community eager to awaken into the virtual world.

This explosion lured a new type of criminal as well, the cyber attacker or hacker. Private individuals and corporations demanded protection and laws to protect themselves from a cyber-attack and thus the online security business emerged.

So, what is online security?

What is online security? Anyone who has a desktop or laptop computer, smart phone, tablet and internet access, has a pretty good idea of what online security does. But what is online security exactly? Online security “is the knowledge of maximizing the user’s personal safety and security risks to private information and property associated with using the internet and the self-protection from computer crime in general”. Nice definition, but what does this mean to the average person?

What it means is, knowing how to protect personal and corporate information from being stolen online by cyber criminals. Through various methods like Antivirus Software, Cloud Storage, or the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN), people and corporations can secure their content online and keep out prying eyes.

A spoon full of sugar

Viruses—nasty little blighters that get into your body and cause all kinds of uncomfortable and even dangerous symptoms. But we’re not talking about the flu here. We’re talking about a computer virus. Viruses, malware, trojans, and worms enter into your system and cause irreparable damage to your hard drive making them the most effective ways for a hacker to wreak havoc on your system.

Antivirus software is your first defense in protecting your computer systems. Antivirus software programs are downloadable onto your computer, smartphone, or tablet and protect their operating systems from maliciously encrypted data being covertly inserted onto their hard drives via an internet connection.

The malware, viruses, worms, and trojans are designed to mimic standard network protocols. Antivirus software act much like antibiotics and vitamins do for the body. They eradicate the malware, viruses and worms, and put in place detection protocols to recognize these buggers the next time they try to enter your computer system.

Hackers are always trying to stay one step ahead of the curve so, antivirus software needs to be updated periodically in order for it protect your system from more and more savvy cyber criminals.

Tunnel Vision

While Antivirus software act as doctors and sentries for your computer, how do you keep your internet access safe from those entities (who shall remain nameless) from spying on what you do on the internet? Enter the Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs are a unique protection method in that their primary function is to make your online presence invisible and undetectable to an outside entity.

They work through the process of encryptions and ‘tunnels’ that cloak your information in a protective cocoon while transmitting the cocooned data through a ‘tunnel’. Much like an airplane cocoons passengers in a pressurized metal cabin while it careens through the air.

VPNs protect your online identity, location, and viewing from prying eyes while you’re accessing the internet from a Wi-Fi hotspot location or a stationary connection like that of your home or office. Since Wi-Fi connections are radio waves, they are all over and accessible to anyone with the right software. A VPN cloaks those radio waves also known as you’re a user.

With Your Head in the Clouds

So, now that we have covered the most common and trusted methods, what about the newest online rage, The Cloud. Cloud storage is fast becoming the preferred method in which corporations and individuals store their information when there simply isn’t enough space to store more.

Cloud storage works with other servers on other networks using the internet as the transportation method. You, the client, purchases and uses space on other servers outside of your home server or hard drive to store your information from one of the three types of cloud storage, public, private, and hybrid.

Public cloud storage is used mainly for emails and hard drive backup. They are a fee-for-use service and the network administrator providing the service, maintains security. The upside to public cloud storage is it is relatively inexpensive and easy to access.

The downside is once you hand over your information to the provider; you no longer have control over its security. Much like putting your valuables in a public storage locker, the people managing the facility keep your valuables safe. But there are no guarantees. One major power outage can wipe out an entire server, eliminating your data.

Private Cloud storage, like public cloud storage, is used by those who need to store a lot of information they have no more room for and have no immediate need to access. It is, usually, more used by corporations as the security is tighter on the provider servers.

Hybrid cloud storage is just that, a hybrid of public and private storage. Mostly used for its ease of access, Hybrid storage is used mainly by those who need access to some part of their information and not for others. For instance, an email from your employer requesting a particular project can be stored on a public cloud provided by your email provider.

The information you gathered to complete the task gets stored on a private cloud network. Hybrid storage is not exactly the most cost effective and security issues with this type of storage are fast becoming a topic of online debate—who owns the data stored in the cloud?

The Verdict

So, what is online security? The methods for securing your online identity and information; Antivirus software, VPNs and Cloud Storage all address a growing concern on the internet today. As this big blue marble of ours becomes increasingly smaller due to the internet, there is more need for online security than ever before. Information is at a premium today, but the cost of online security is priceless.

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