Internet Safety: How to Protect Yourself Against Hackers

Download this PDF - View all Publications

Recent reports estimate that there will be between 20 and 30 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020. Many people are familiar with computers, tablets, smartphones, and wireless Internet. Now other “smart” devices, like televisions, home security cameras, and even refrigerators, connect to the Internet. More devices mean more avenues for attack by hackers.

What is Hacking?

Hackers illegally access devices or websites to steal peoples’ personal information, which they use to commit the crimes like theft. Many people shop, bank, and pay bills online. People also store financial information, like credit card or bank account numbers, on their devices. A hacker can do a lot of damage even if only one account or device is compromised. To make matters worse, hackers are difficult to stop because they are often located outside the United States and use cutting edge technology to evade law enforcement and acquire large amounts of information.

There are two main ways hackers may try to get your personal information. One way is to try to obtain information directly from an Internet-connected device by installing spyware, which sends information from your device to others without your knowledge or consent. Hackers may install spyware by tricking you into opening spam email, or into “clicking” on attachments, images, and links in email messages, instant messages, and pop-up messages. Hackers use spyware to track keystrokes or acquire pictures of your device’s screen in the hope of snagging account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information. Criminals can also hack individual websites—like email, social media, or financial institutions—and steal the information stored there.

While trying to protect all your devices and accounts from these criminals may seem daunting, there are some easy, practical steps you can take to keep your information more secure.

Protecting Computers and Laptops

Protecting Cell Phones

Protecting Other Internet-Connected Devices

As mentioned above, Internet-connected televisions and appliances are now available in the marketplace. These devices, as well as the router that connects your home to the Internet, are also vulnerable to attack. It is important to protect these devices just like computers and smartphones.

Protecting Online Accounts

If Your Device or Online Accounts are Hacked

Reporting Hacking

Hacking is a crime. You may file a report with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which may be contacted as follows:

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Minneapolis Office
1501 Freeway Boulevard
Brooklyn Center, MN 55430
(763) 569-8000 external link icon

You may also wish to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission as follows:

Federal Trade Commission
Bureau of Consumer Protection
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
(877) 382-4357
TTY: (866) 653-4261 external link icon

For more information on consumer issues, contact the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office as follows:

Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 (Twin Cities Calling Area)
(800) 657-3787 (Outside the Twin Cities)
(800) 627-3529 (Minnesota Relay)

Related Posts:

Scams Targeting Computer Owners

By some estimates, over 85 percent of Americans have a computer in their home. Many computer users do not have the technical know-how to fix their computers when they break or jam. Scammers—many from other countries—seek to exploit these facts.

Computer Malware and Phishing Schemes

Increasingly, "phishing" emails do more than just impersonate a bank in the effort to steal consumers' information. Thieves may send a spam email message, instant message, or pop-up message that infects the consumer's PC with spyware and gives control of it to the thief.

What You Can Do About Junk Email

Spammers send up to 100 million junk emails a day. Spam emails are not only a nuisance but can damage your computer and allow an attacker access to your private and financial information.