Research shows that a majority of American adults who go online have limited knowledge and understanding of cybersecurity basics. It’s important to be aware of the prevalent threats and how to protect against them. Tools installed at the perimeter of any network can only do so much. No matter how many of those tools are installed on any network, a simple phishing email can bypass them and land in a user's inbox. Social engineering is a powerful method for hackers because they count on manipulating your emotions; be it fear, empathy, or love. Educating yourself about the ongoing threats and the risk they pose can help keep your information and identify safe.
Phishing, Vishing, Smishing
Scammers are becoming so well versed at copying logos and language, pretending to be colleagues, and generally making us feel comfortable that we don’t hesitate to open links and files. Phishers can make email messages appear to come from anyone they choose and are even engaging more often in “vishing,” the practice of phishing for information using the telephone and “smishing” which is using SMS messaging or any type of text.
Malware describes all types of malicious code designed to do just about anything the authors choose; from stealing information off our devices to turning on our video cameras to spy on us. It can infect smartphones, tablets, computers, and anything with an Internet connection, including smart TVs and game consoles. Malware includes, but is not limited to viruses, spyware, ransomware, adware, trojans, worms, potentially unwanted products (PUP), etc.
Here are some simple tips to help you protect yourself from these and other cybercrimes:
- Take time to review any messages you get to ensure they are not phishing in some way. If you are not expecting a link or attachment, don’t immediately click.
- Don’t give sensitive information to anyone who initiates a phone call or text to you.
- Remember that public offices won’t initiate contact with you via email or phone.
- Perform due diligence on an application you want to install on any device. Check the reviews, read about it separately online, and ask others about their experiences.
- Install and keep anti-malware software updated on your internet-connected devices.
- Create strong passwords and use unique ones for each online account. Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers and special characters.
- Avoid performing sensitive transactions on public WiFi. Wait until you can connect to a network in which you have confidence.
If you find yourself a victim of cybercrime:
- Report it to your local law enforcement.
- File a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
- Report crimes in which your personal information was stolen to the FTC.
- Report Internet crimes to the FTC.
- Change affected passwords.
- Monitor your credit and accounts.
- Consider freezing your credit.
- Ensure your antivirus software is current.