As an IT service company, we live and breathe security. We do everything we can to help protect our clients from being attacked by cyber criminals. It’s not easy, because just as we think we have taken all preventative measures, a criminal finds another way to access information.
Over the past few weeks, we have had an increased number of clients contact us regarding possible spam and hacking attacks. It’s great that folks are being more skeptical of emails and phone calls. However, with increased attempts comes increased actual phishing attacks. Here are some simple security measures you can take to be more proactive.
Avoid Public Wifi
That’s right. If you are in a coffee shop, library, airport, or hotel, there is usually free wifi. The “free” part is very appealing – no cost to you in money and data usage. However, when you log on to public wifi, your computer and data become very vulnerable to others on that public wifi. This means they can, unbeknownst to you, remotely connect to your laptop, phone, or tablet and access information on your computer. They can also monitor the websites you visit, including your email, financial accounts, social media sites, etc. If they are clever enough, which if they have gone this far they usually are, can even put “keylogger” software on your machine to gather your login credentials.
They may not use them right away. In fact, they may just study your incoming and outgoing emails for days, weeks, or even months. Criminals do this to study your communication – who you talk to, language, common greetings, nicknames, patterns. Eventually, they use this to either imitate you to your contacts or to learn how and what you respond to. Several of our friends have fallen victim to this type of phishing attack. It’s careful, meticulous, and leaves you very vulnerable. That leads us to …
Change Your Passwords Often
This is not ideal because most of us already have a tough time remembering a single password. This makes it very easy for criminals to gain access to our information and identity. You should at least consider changing the passwords of your most valuable accounts. These include:
- Email accounts (yes, all of them);
- Bank accounts;
- Credit card accounts;
- Other financial institutions;
- Social media accounts, especially important if you are very active, share identifying information like your location, etc.;
- Any accounts that store financial information, such as online payments.
If you are worried you won’t remember them, there are wonderful, secure password management tools where you can store your passwords. Some that we recommend to our clients are LastPass or PassPortal. There are plenty of others that are out there too.
Block IP Addresses
Microsoft does offer basic firewall functionality where you can block certain IP addresses. Our recommendation would be to have an IT professional help set up these policies. However, there are solutions available for home users, including blocking visitors with IP addresses from specific countries, with advanced routers. NetGear offers the ability to do this. It is an “advanced” feature but it is possible. Here is an article on how to do so.
Avoid Pop Up Ads
Those pesky pop up ads are not only annoying but could potentially have malware embedded in them. Sometimes criminals are even smart enough to have the malware download without you even clicking on them. That’s why we would highly recommend using a pop up add blocker, such as uBlock Origin. Essentially, this genius piece of software will stop the ad from loading completely. If there are certain sites you know are safe and would like to see their ads, you can alter your settings to allow them to appear.
If there’s anything you take away from this, let it be that you should take security seriously. There are full-time cyber criminals that are paying for their mortgage, children’s college tuition, and for their parents to live in a nice comfortable nursing home with your money. Their life, children’s life, and parents’ life depends on this. That means they are relentless.
If these tools and tips are too intimidating, start with these:
- Read your emails a little more slowly and carefully. Do you know the sender? Have you verified the entire email address? Is the email in the right context? Are there many spelling or grammatical errors? Are they asking for an immediate response? If so, call them first before replying and…
- Avoid clicking ANY link in any email from anyone, ever. So many phishing attacks begin with a simple click and quickly turn in to a complex problem.
- Don’t use a single password for all of your accounts.
- Find your balance of security and convenience.
- Determine what layers of security you are most comfortable with implementing.
Of course, if you’d like to talk to us about any additional security tactics we are more than happy to help.
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