Every October, the government and the tech industry come together to raise awareness about cyber security. Their goal is to reinforce the proactive role we all need to play in keeping our personal and workplace accounts cyber secure. Just recently, we were reminded again how anyone, at any time can be vulnerable. A client contacted us because he was concerned that he had been prey to a cyber scam. He received an iMessage from a friend telling him to click on a link where he could confirm that he was receiving his stimulus check from the government. The friend stated he had used this link and received a check. When our client clicked on the link, he was asked to enter personal information including his name, address, phone and social security number.
Once he entered the personal info, he was then prompted to enter some financial info, such as bank accounts, which seemed fishy to him, so he stopped. On further investigation, it turned out his friend’s iMessaging had been hacked, and this scam message went out to his entire contact list. Scammers have gotten so good at impersonating reputable companies and people that millions are falling for these fraudulent communications daily. The takeaway here is to not blindly trust but rather be skeptical of anything that can be clicked, forwarded, downloaded or replied to. Take the time to go straight to the company’s official website or call the person who sent it. And when all else fails, live by the motto “When in doubt, throw it out!”
Even though today’s technology makes our lives a lot more convenient, there are challenges too. It’s becoming increasingly common to hear stories such as this, and unfortunately others haven’t turned out so well. We thought it would be helpful to you to send along some of the basic but extremely important tips that may help keep your online identity and accounts safe.
Update security. Enable auto-updates for system software and security software, which is easy and crucial. Updates enhance existing features, patch security flaws, add new security features, fix bug issues and improve performance for devices. Quick updates deny hackers easy entry into your devices and ensure there aren’t holes in your security.
Stay safe on social media. Social media networks have become breeding grounds for cyber scams because of their casual settings where our guards are let down and personal information is readily available. The information we share is ending up in the hands of the wrong people and this leads to spear phishing and account takeovers. To prevent these situations, adjust your account’s privacy settings, reduce the amount of information you share and limit your friends to people you know well.
Lock down your logins. Passwords are still the gateway to your online accounts. Doubling the gateway by enabling two-factor authentication on your devices makes it twice as secure. Can’t remember your passwords? String together a few words with spaces or symbols in-between to create a “passphrase” instead. Not only are they easier to remember but they’re much harder to crack. You can also download a reputable password manager to keep all of your login information safe.
Call your financial institutions. Inform them of any issues so they can provide additional security on your accounts. Also call the three primary credit bureaus, Experion, Equifax and TransUnion, and ask them to put a freeze on your credit report, which may help prevent identity theft and fraud. To go the extra mile, you can also freeze your credit at two lesser-known credit bureaus that may have information about you: Innovis and the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange.
Know the risks and realize that criminals are hiding everywhere online trying to steal your personal information, money or both. While we can’t prevent every criminal and their capabilities, we can certainly make it much harder for them to succeed. This starts with knowing your vulnerabilities and learning about your devices and software.
This is a great month to do a spot check on your current security measures and make any necessary changes to your online security. Reach out if you have any questions about cyber security and we hope these tips help you stay safe online!