By Brian New

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DALLAS (CBS11) – Even if you try, it’s nearly impossible these days not to have a footprint online, which means everyone is a potential target for hackers looking to steal identities and clean out bank accounts.

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“We are very vulnerable,” said Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu, a cybersecurity expert at the University of Texas at Dallas. “Being aware of these kinds of attacks and always verifying and limiting what you disclose will make it less risky for you.”

Here’s the Top 5 new threats to your personal information and how to protect yourself:

1. Juice jacking
Plugging your phone into a public phone charging station could compromise all your data. The reason is the same cables that you use to charge your phone can also be used to transmit data. Security experts say it’s easy for a hacker to manipulate these charging cords and steal your personal information right off your phone. Public charging stations are growing in popularity at places like airports, shopping malls, college campuses and hospitals.

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2. Fake hotspots
You may think you’re logged onto to the coffee shop’s free Wi-Fi hotspot, but it might be a fraud and the hacker behind the fake hotspot could potentially see everything on your screen. Distinguishing which hotspots are fake can be very difficult. This is why security experts say when using free Wi-Fi for email, only log onto secured pages with a “https” in the address. Experts also recommend not to do online banking or send sensitive work emails from a free hotspot.

3. People searches
Not only have genealogy and people-search websites made it easier and quicker to find someone’s personal information, but what some cybersecurity experts say is even more of a threat to your personal information is when the roles are unknowingly reversed. Instead of the website providing you information, by answering questions the sites claim will give you better results, you could be the one actually providing personal information to the website. Websites use this information is build a bigger databases and more detailed personal profiles.

4. Doxing
Doxing short for “dropping docs.” This is when someone goes online to find someone’s personal information; like phone numbers, addresses, email addresses and personal pictures. They then publish this information online and encourage unsolicited harassment. The onslaught of harassment in many cases forces victims to changed phone numbers and email address.
To protect yourself from doxing, Dr. Kantarcioglu said start by making sure your social media accounts are set to “private” and “friends only.” He also suggests periodically cleaning up your social media accounts by erasing older posts and pictures.

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5. Ransomware
This is one the most common ways cyber criminals these days are making money, according to industry experts. Ransomware is malware that once it gets into a computer, it locks up or encrypts the files. A message then appears on the screen stating the files will remain locked until a ransom is paid, usually in bitcoin. In recent attacks, ransomware has been disguised as an alert from the FBI or an email from a shipping company. Dr. Kantarcioglu said the best defense is to back up all your files to an external device, adding in most cases paying the ransom will get you nothing.