Keeping Hackers from Stealing Your Online Identity

Too often you visit a website, after you place an order, transfer money, or update a profile, you just close the window when you are finished. You just skipped one of the most important parts for security…

Logout.

To help keep unauthorized users from having access to the websites you protect with a password, you need to logout of the website.

Unbeknownst to many, it is a very bad habit to just “close the browser” when you finish at a web site.

For example, if you go to your banking web site, or Amazon, or LinkedIn, or any other site that asks for your username and password, do your business and choose the option to log out, sign out, or the similar function they provide. Yes, the next time you come to the site, it will ask you for your password again, but many sites do that already.

If you just close Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or whatever browser you are using without logging out, it is much easier for an unauthorized person to impersonate you if you skip the logout process. That person could be in your office who sits at your computer when you aren’t in your chair, or it could be someone on the other side of the planet.

Make logging out of web sites a habit!


6 Comments

  • Coleen Spalding October 31, 2013 at 7:17 am - Reply

    This is true and just this morning I closed out of a window without logging out. I knew I did it immediately when it happened but it was too late. What should I have done at that point? Should I log back in and then log out properly and then close?

    Thanks for your tips and reminders!

    • Mike Foster October 31, 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

      That’s a great strategy Coleen – Log back in and logout properly this time. Good thinking! You may have just ruined a potential attacker’s day.

  • Jay Sauter October 31, 2013 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Good tip Mike. Thanks for telling me something I had no idea could happen. I had a very strange phone call the other night. A gentleman with a rather heavy accent (India I think) claimed that my windows computer contained a virus and was pinging his system trying to either hack it or infect it. He wanted me to go to my windows computer while he was still on the line so that he could help me to fix the problem. Since we use Macs in our home, I was suspicious and after he told me it must be from the excel program on my Mac so go to my Mac and log on, I hung up. What was he trying to do? Thanks.

    • Mike Foster October 31, 2013 at 10:13 am - Reply

      Hi Jay – Wow, you made an awesome decision! He was going to have you visit a web site that would have a “drive-by-download” that would install an “agent” on your computer. He might have even talked you into downloading a file that seemed completely innocent, but inside it would be contain a small part of malicious code. Either way, your computer would have a security problem. Since he talked about Excel, the file he sent might have been a spreadsheet with a malicious script – and he was going to tell you to “click ok” when Excel warned of the script.

      Maybe he would have a “back door” to get into your system anytime he wanted to.

      Perhaps he would start a “zombie” service that would run in the background so that, without your knowledge, your computer would be part of a “bot-net” that could be used by a “bot-wrangler.” Bot-wranglers can use their “armies” of hundreds of computers to, for example, flood some other web site with traffic that causes that web site to “go down.” That’s called a DDOS Distributed Denial of Service attack and the web servers just can’t handle so many simultaneous requests. Meanwhile, you would never have known any of this was going on.

      Then again, he may have been installing a key-logger program that would record all of your keystrokes so he could capture private information including, and not limited to, your usernames and passwords.

      Maybe he was going to install an attacker “Swiss army knife” that would do all three. And other bad things can happen.

      Good job for hanging up on him. He probably just moved on to another person who isn’t as e-savvy as you are…

      • Jay Sauter October 31, 2013 at 10:57 am - Reply

        Thanks for the info Mike. I had no idea so much can happen so fast.

        • Mike Foster November 8, 2013 at 10:30 am - Reply

          Yes, so quickly. It is amazing. Great job on dodging that speeding bullet!

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