How vulnerable are you to cyber threats?
Love it or hate it, the vast majority of us are constantly connected to the Internet using some type of handheld device or computer to communicate with others and conduct business. Improved battery, chip and wireless technologies combined with reasonably priced smart phones, tablets, readers and gaming devices have allowed the digital world to permeate into almost every facet of our lives.
And, as more people migrate to mobile and cloud services for communication and commerce, cybercriminals will continue to evolve and increase their attacks and threats.
Did you know…
- there are over 2.7 billion active Internet users and 6.8 billion mobile subscribers worldwide;
- 55% of American adult cell owners use the internet on their mobile phones;
- 75 Million Scam emails are sent every day claiming 2,000 victims;
- 8,200 new unique threats are found every hour according to Trend Micro;
- 73% of Americans have experienced some form of cyber crime?
We will try to keep our “geek speak” to a minimum, but the goal here is to mention some things you should be aware of and steps you can take to help protect devices and systems from various types of cyber threats.
Secure and protect your devices
- Make sure computers and all wireless devices have current anti-virus software and firewalls, schedule them to scan daily or weekly, and update virus patterns often. If you own or manage a business, encourage employees to protect their personal home devices too.
- If you use a wireless router to access the Internet, secure it. Change the name of your router from the default ID (usually SSID or ESSID) to a name that is unique to you and won’t be easily guessed by others. Change the pre-set password on your router to a long and strong password using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
Also, set your router’s level of security to either WPA2 (if available) or WPA since they are more secure than the WEP option. And finally, some routers allow for guests to use the network via a separate (or guest) password. If you have kids or many visitors in your home, it is a good idea to set up a guest network. Your provider should have instructions on all (or most) of these procedures.
- Set security preferences as high as possible on Internet browsers and anti-virus packages.
- Although it is best to not open emails or attachments from unknown sources, that’s not always feasible – especially in the business world. But consider saving the attached files into a temporary directory and scan them before opening.
- Create long passwords using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters; change them often and don’t share them with others. And don’t use the same password for all your accounts!
- Don’t access financial institutions from mobile devices using apps or email links. Instead, visit banking and credit card sites directly using a browser window. And limit the use of apps on social networking sites too since they can have security weaknesses and flaws.
- Speaking of credit cards, check the backs of your cards to see if they have radio-frequency identification chips (RFID) or Near Field Communication (NFC) chips that are embedded in credit and debit cards. (Visa calls its technology payWave, MasterCard is PayPass, Discover brands it Zip, and American Express calls it ExpressPay.) If any of your cards have a phrase, symbol or chip, consider using RFID-blocking shields or
wallets, which generally use aluminum or steel to keep out prying eyes. There are even instructions on the Web about how to give your existing wallet RFID-inhibiting protection using duct tape and aluminum foil.
- Be aware there are lots of “scareware” scams online! Do NOT download or click on a screen that says it found “X number of viruses or spyware on your system” suggesting you download their package — it will most likely be a virus.
- Beware of “ransomware” (malware that prevents you from using your computer until you pay a fine) and “madware” (mobile adware – esp. apps – that can potentially expose location details, contact data, and device identifiers to cybercriminals) since they are predicted to be major issues going forward.
- Also beware of “smishing”(a combination of SMS texting and phishing) and “vishing” (voice and phishing) scams. Typically these involve you receiving a text message or an automated phone call on your cell phone saying there’s a problem with your bank account. You are given a phone number to call or a website to log into and asked to provide personal identifiable information—like a bank account number, PIN, or credit card number—to fix the problem. Do not respond to unsolicited e-mails, texts or phone calls requesting personal data, and never click on links or attachments contained within unsolicited e-mails or messages.
- Backup data often and keep a daily or weekly backup off-site. And keep in mind, if you back up data using the cloud (rather than using an external drive or other local device) you may not be able to access your data if there is a disaster or emergency limiting access to the web.
- Make sure someone knows how to download patches or fixes in case a computer or system gets infected.
- If your business or employer is hacked, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov
by Bill & Janet Liebsch
Bill & Janet Liebsch are the founders of FedHealth, a publishing and marketing company formed in 1999 to help the public focus on preparedness and health-related issues. They also are the authors and publishers of “IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it?” and are dedicated to developing programs that primarily benefit First Responders, schools and volunteers. Get a sample of the content with this free mini-ebook HERE