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Security, as it relates to computers and the Internet, is also known as IT security or cybersecurity; it refers to the techniques that ensure that data stored on a computer, or a network, cannot be compromised or read by anyone lacking the authorization.

Two things that individuals need to be concerned about are their money and their privacy.

Common threats to your money and your privacy include credit card fraud, scams, phishing, viruses and malware, identity theft, e-mail hacking, and tracking.

People are commonly worried about their credit card information being stolen online. This does occur, but it is one of the least scary scenarios. As long as you report fraudulent charges promptly, you won't be held liable for them. Thus, while credit card fraud is a major problem for the credit card companies, it's not usually a major problem for the cardholders.

As for scams, the Internet is the scam artist's dream. Scammers no longer have to meet with their targets one on one, but they can meet millions of gullible people with almost no cost, and low risk, through email. Somewhere from 60-90% of the email appearing in someone's inbox is spam or junk mail. Correctly maintained junk mail filters catch a large portion of it, and most of the rest is deleted or ignored. But if a scammer sends a million emails out, at no cost, and only 0.1% of these emails are read, he has still reached a thousand people. If only one percent of these people are taken in by the scam, he has found ten clients.

Using email as a delivery mechanism, scammers will try to trick people into signing up for expensive services, sending them money, or divulging personal financial information. Some of these scams are illegal, while others are merely unethical.

Phishing is a scheme in which scammers try to get people to divulge sensitive information by pretending to represent the individual's bank, a creditor, a popular online retailer, or even a government agency, doing this by email or through a website that has been made to look legitimate, and which may even have a web address that appears plausible. They might try to entice the individual with good stuff, such as the promise of a free prize or a special opportunity, or they might try to scare the person with bad stuff, like freezing their bank account, or they might tell the person that their account has been hacked. Whatever the pretense, the goal is to get the individual to give up information like passwords, credit card numbers or other financial details.

Emails are also used to trick people into accessing websites that use malicious code to secretly download and install malware or viruses to their computer. This malware may be used to steal information, cause senseless harm to the computer, or to use the resources of that computer to attack a third-party computer or network.

When someone uses private information about another party in order to impersonate that other party, which is known as identity theft. When they use this information to steal from the victim, it is known as identity fraud. This is the most serious threat that the average Internet user is likely to face. When someone has all of the information necessary in order to pretend to be another person, they can drain that person's bank accounts, open credit cards in the other person's name, and even take out loans in the other person's name. In extreme cases, people have even lived as another person. When the bills come due, it is up to the victim to persuade the banks, credit card companies, and creditors that they had been defrauded, and they are likely to be left with an insurmountable black mark in their credit history.

Identify theft is sometimes made possible through email hacking, which is when someone manages to access another person's email account. When a password is forgotten, access is usually regained by email. The hacker can use automated password resets to change bank and credit card passwords, locking out the actual account holder, giving themselves full access. The hacker might also use the email accounts of their victims to get money from the victim's friends and family members. Often, the email hacker sells this information to another party.

Of course, there is also the fact that our movements, online and in real life, are being tracked by government agencies, corporations, and others. People freely give away bits of personal information for the promise of a free service.

These are some of the direct attacks that may be waged against you through your computer or Internet connection, although your personal information is more likely to be obtained through large-scale hacking of corporate or government websites. We cannot secure these websites, but we can reduce the amount of information we give them or change this information regularly.

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