The internet can be a weird, confusing, and even dangerous place — even for people who have been going online for decades. The unfortunate truth is there are a lot of scammers out there, hoping to somehow trick you for their own benefit. They may be hoping you’ll send them money, posing as a family member. They may be trying to steal your identity to commit some sort of bank fraud. Or maybe they are just internet trolls, hoping to blackmail you after you clicked the wrong link or shared some information you shouldn’t have. The point is, you need to navigate the internet carefully.
The good news is that there’s plenty of help. Plenty of websites offer their own version of Cyber Awareness Training. These courses will teach you how to avoid internet scammers. Best of all, many of the best courses are completely free. You may think it can’t happen to you, but cybercrime affects tens of millions of Americans every year. Even savvy internet users could probably use a refresher course.
Protect Yourself From Cyber Crimes
According to PurpleSec, a security organization that tracks online crimes, more than 71 million Americans are victimized by cyber crimes every year. The average personal loss per victim is $4,476. These online thieves aren’t just trying to steal your spare change. Instead, they are going for the jugular and attempting to drain your entire savings accounts. And things are only getting worse
PurpleSec reports that cybercrime rose over 600 percent due to the pandemic, as more people were stuck inside on their computers. Ransomware attacks are 57 times more destructive now than they were in 2015. They estimate that cybercrime will total $10.5 trillion by 2025 — yes, that’s trillion with a T.
Don’t let yourself be scammed. Watch out for these common cyber attacks. For extra education, consider taking one of the free online cyber protection courses that we’ll write about in a minute.
Common Cyber Attacks to Watch Out For
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an official government organization, the five most common types of cyber crimes in 2021 were extortion, identity theft, personal data breach, non-payment scams, and phishing attacks.
These scams involve someone attempting to collect payment in exchange for keeping some sort of sensitive data they have or claim to have a secret. It could be a compromising photo or incriminating screenshot. Often, they are lying. The scammer is hoping you’ll just get scared enough to pay them.
There are plenty of ways to use identity theft scams. If a cyber attacker can learn enough details about you through social media — such as birthday, address, phone number, or pet name — they may be able to sufficiently impersonate you. Then they can apply for credit cards, loans, or other financial products in your name, before vanishing.
Personal Data Breach
A personal data breach is when someone steals your sensitive data or passwords. They could use it themselves. For example, to login to your online banking and drain your savings account. They could also simply sell it to another online criminal.
Have you ever received an email or text message claiming you didn’t pay a certain bill, like your taxes? These scams are increasingly common since plenty of people fear being sent to collections or seeing their credit score take a hit because they missed a payment. However, a lot of these messages are merely scams, trying to scare you into paying a bill that never existed in the first place.
Similar to personal data breaches, phishing attacks are emails or text messages that are designed to look like legitimate communications from companies you probably deal with. Costco, Walmart, Apple, Amazon, or Verizon are all popular brands that scammers try to use. They will say something like your password was exposed and you need to change it. But if you click the link, it sends to you their website — which will look mostly real, at first glance — where they will collect as much data about you as possible.
Free Online Cyber Awareness Training
Here are some of the best options to educate and protect yourself against a potential cyber fraud attack.
Amazon’s Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Amazon’s free Cybersecurity Awareness Training is a great place to start. This 15 minute course is available in 11 different languages and covers the basics of cybersecurity. It’s also compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Amazon claims this course is perfect for “any employee or individual who wants to better understand the most common cyber risks and what they can do to protect themselves and their organizations.”
There are no pre-requirements and you’ll end up with a certificate of completion at the end. It could be a handy thing to have if you work for a company that requires you to be online at work.
Wizer is a user-friendly website that offers a variety of excellent cybersecurity training. There are courses aimed at more corporate environments, plus more personal ones that focus on personal online use. Once you finish the free training, you can opt to pay for a Boost membership, which is $19.99 per year, to access even more cybersecurity education.
Wizer’s platform is clean and simple, giving users plenty of interactive options. They can run a phishing simulation to teach you what red flags to watch for. There’s also a gaming element, which will give you a score based on your good or bad online decisions.
Cofense has an extremely thorough selection of online security training courses. Their training modules cover everything from data protection, malware, malicious links, mobile devices, social engineering, working from home, and even the internet of things (connected devices). There’s even specialized courses in spear phishing (targeted attack) and vishing (telephone phishing).
Like Wizer, Cofense conducts some of its training via interactive exercises and games. There’s simulated phishing attempts, cybersecurity quizzes, and a “honeycomb challenge” of security related questions. Their training is perfect for anyone looking to become more secure while browsing the internet. It also makes a great employee training exercise for businesses of any size.
SANS Institute Cyber Aces Online Courses
The SANS Institute promises to teach you the fundamentals of cybersecurity for no cost at all. They insist that in an increasingly digital world, the need for cybersecurity training is higher than ever. Their course material is “updated regularly to keep pace with changes in technology and threat landscape.”
The Cyber Aces Online training courses are designed for a wide variety of users. Whether you’re a high school student, job seeker, young professional, or employed by the military, there’s at least one course geared to your needs. There’s no registration required, but there is a software download required to get the full experience.
Last but not least, Alison is another great option for cybersecurity security training. They offer a host of interesting courses, from “Diploma in Ethical Hacking” to “An Introduction to Cryptocurrency.” There’s also training on how to avoid identity theft, malware, social engineering, and piracy.
Like the other options on this list, Alison is totally free. You just need to make a user account to login. Luckily, your account will then track all of your progress and course completions.
Alison also has other useful features, like a mental health assessment and a resume builder. These aren’t exactly related to cybersecurity, but they are nice additions if you’re making an account anyway.