What is cyber security?
It’s a way to keep computers, networks, data, personal information, and programs safe. That means:
- Keeping hackers out
- Preventing malware from destroying or infecting computers with viruses
- Allowing unauthorized access to sensitive data and information
Governments and businesses employ cybersecurity personnel. It’s also important for people to take into account personal security, and assess ways to keep online records, identity and digital footprint safe.
Tips to keep your online life safe
October Cyber Security Tips
Keep your defenses up
Get the latest updates for your security software, operating system and web browser. This helps defend your computer against malware and viruses. Most software programs update when there are new versions available. Just enable automatic updates.
Secure your online accounts
Wherever you conduct business online, shop, or maintain accounts, you should include extra account verification steps. Set those up yourself, or call your bank for help creating an extra security step.
Be Wi-Fi Aware
A non-secure Wi-Fi network, as you’d find in coffee shops or airports, can expose you to hackers. Set strong security settings, and don’t conduct important business – such as shopping or other use of sensitive information – over these networks.
Create unique passwords
Capital letters, numbers, symbols, and long passwords safeguard accounts against hackers.
Watch your cash
If you bank or shop online, do so only on sites that are security-enabled. That means you’ll have an https:// before the site address, and a small green lock
symbol next to it.
Back up your files
Anything could happen. Your computer could crash, be stolen or get hacked. Ensure photos and personal information won’t be lost. Use the Cloud, an external hard drive, or USB devices to store important information you can’t afford to lose.
Be aware of what you share
Phishers, hackers, or plain-old creepy stalkers can use anything you share on social media. Set strong privacy settings on each site. For extra protection, ensure only friends can see your profiles. Don’t post revealing information, such as birthdate, address, or school.
Delete suspicious links
Don’t click on any link you receive in an email, tweet, text or post, from someone you don’t know. Cybercriminals can gain access to or compromise your computer through malicious links.
Keep tabs on your USBs
These can often carry malware or viruses that can be transferred onto your computer. Scan them like you would your computer, and use only pre-approved USBs in the workplace.
Make a difference
Report cybercrime, such as identity theft or financial fraud, to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and to local law enforcement.
A Parent’s Guide to Cybersecurity
Your kids are your world.
You’ll do everything you can to make sure they’re protected when they venture out into the real world. But what about their online world? Teaching children about cybersecurity and cyberbullying from a young age can be just as important as learning how to safely ride a bike or cross the street.
With an abundance of devices and an ever-changing tech landscape, what’s the best way to teach kids to use technology responsibly?
First, an understanding of cybersecurity and cyberbullying is important.
How we keep our computers, data and personal information safe. When talking to kids about cybersecurity, it’s important to discuss best practices, like:
- How to safely visit websites
- Why not to give out personal information
- How to avoid getting a computer virus
Bullying using different forms of technology. This includes:
- Sending mean text messages
- Posting embarrassing pictures and videos of someone on social networking sites
- Sending intimidating messages or threats
Second, know what you’re up against. According to SANS, a security awareness organization, most threats to kids online include:
- Strangers, sexual predators
- Fraud through game accounts
- Friends playing pranks or using objectionable language
- A child sharing too much personal information
- Accessing inappropriate content, such as porn sites
- Downloading copyrighted movies or materials illegally
It might seem overwhelming, but it’s not impossible to monitor and keep your child safe online. Here are nine easy ways to get started.
1. Talk it out
Discuss what it means to be safe online with your kids. Talking is your best tool. Making your kids feel safe to talk to you about what they see/do online is also a great way to create opportunities for teachable moments.
Consider games that reinforce what you discuss.
2. Have a “kids-only” computer
This could mean they use a designated computer only. Or it could mean they can use any computer, but only during specified times, such as for homework and games. However you set parameters, ensure computers they use are up-to-date with the latest software, filters, and firewalls.
3. Keep tabs
There are two popular types of software parents can use to track their children’s online activity.
Blocking software: Create a list of safe, educational websites for kids. Attempts to visit non-approved websites triggers the software to send parents a message. Parents can also set time parameters.
Recording Software: Software that records and takes snapshots of what children access and what sites they visit. Check out this list of top recording software.
4. Protect their identity
You’ve warned your kids never to take candy from a stranger. But what about an online stranger? Plenty of online games have chat rooms. Make sure your child understands why it’s important not to give out personal information to someone they don’t know online. This includes:
- Phone number
5. Stand up to Cyberbullying
Your child could experience or participate in cyberbullying. It’s important they understand the risks of bullying online, and how to speak up about it when they see it. Cyberbullying can be even more harmful than real bullying. It can happen 24/7, any time your child gets online. Stopbullying.gov is a valuable resource.
6. Call me on my cell phone
Smartphones have tracking options parents can utilize. To ensure their child isn’t bingeing on their phone late at night, some families also have a central location where children place their phones before they go to bed.
7. Sign a Contract
Draft a technology agreement with your kids. This can include boundaries about what they can and can’t do, and can tie in grades to the use of their devices.
8. Unbreakable Passwords
Talk to your child about creating strong passwords that include numbers, letters and symbols. It’s also important not to use their name, common words or identifying information like birthdays.
9. Practice what you preach
Refer to our cyber safety tips to ensure your computers are up-to-date, and your own online identity, data and assets are secure.
Future cybersecurity defenders
Is your kid obsessed with technology? Cybersecurity might be a great future career. There are plenty of programs and camps to foster this interest.
- GenCyber has summer camps for kids kindergarten through 12th grade to teach about cybersecurity, best online practices and cybersecurity careers.
- Cyberpatriot: A National Youth Cyber Education Program. It has three main programs: The National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, AFA CyberCamps and the Elementary School Cyber Education Initiative.
Keep the conversation going
Not sure how to broach the topic with your kids? Want to make sure they understand what you’ve been discussing? Here are some questions to get the ball rolling.
- What are some things you shouldn’t share with strangers on the Internet?
My name, school, address, teacher’s name, information about our family
- When looking for a new game or doing homework, you see something you don’t think you should see. What do you think you should do?
- Check out the site
- Share it with your friends
- Go tell a parent or teacher
- You’re doing research for school and a pop-up message says you’ve won a free iPhone. All you have to do is enter your phone number. What should you do?
- Someone you go to school with is posting mean things about you on Instagram. How should you handle it?
- Block them
- Report their message
- Tell your parents or a teacher
Don’t get scammed: Shop safer online
The holidays are here – that wonderful, stress-free time of year.
Oh wait, that’s just if you happen to be 6 years old. You, the responsible adult, are probably behind on decorating, shopping, list making, food buying and tree-lighting already. Which is why, in these harrowing times, most people turn to online holiday shopping.
But there are risks.
A recent study from Javelin Strategy & Research found that in 2015, hackers stole $15 billion from more than 13 million U.S. consumers. The Telegraph reports that you are now “20 times more likely to be robbed while at your computer by a criminal based overseas than held up in the street.”
Online scams and identity theft tends to spike during the flurry of holiday shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas, too.
Although it’s good to be cautious, there’s no need to throw your computer out the window. We’ve compiled a list of the most commons types of online threats and how to avoid them for a safe and happy holiday.
5 most common online shopping scams
The Nielson Report, which tracks mobile payment industries, found identity theft to be the most common online fraud. Credit cards are the number-one target. Online scammers also go after email addresses, home addresses and social security numbers. This information allows them to buy online, under a false name, using someone else’s credit card. They can also apply for new credit cards with this data.
But wait, it can get worse. Once thieves have this information, they can file false tax returns, apply for medical benefits, unemployment and more.
It’s the online version of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Thieves try to capture victims’ personal information. They use fake emails or websites that ask users to enter their credit card or social security number.
Often, an email will contain a link or attachment that appears to have come from a trusted site, such as your bank, or a merchant you buy from. Once you click on the link, though, it could install malware, or take you to a non-trustworthy site.
Did you receive an email or pop-up ad that seems too good to be true? It probably is. Fake coupons lure customers to sites with deals for things such as iPads or top tech gadgets. The site asks for personal information, as well as your credit card number, which allow thieves to make purchases in the victim’s name. You can usually spot a fake coupon by poor grammar or spelling, or if the site it takes you to has tons of annoying pop-ups.
You get emails from retailers you trust and like, many with links. But online scammers often use a phishing method that mimics these emails to target you with an “amazing deal,” or links for orders you might never have placed.
This site provides dead giveaways for scam links, and how to spot them. Trust your gut. If you’ve never ordered from them, or there is bad spelling or confusing information- delete it.
It’s hard to resist an offer for a gift card. Online scammers know this. If you get an email saying you’ve received a gift card, but need to enter your banking information, then it is fake. Trustworthy retailers wouldn’t ask you for that.
5 ways to spot and avoid online shopping scams
Now that you know about some of the top online shopping scams out there, it’s time to arm yourself to avoid them. Here are tips to keep your online identity safe.
Buy from brands you know
Stick to brands you trust, and have a proven track record. Well-known brands and larger companies implement strong security measures. If you buy from a new brand or site, read reviews, and be wary if they ask for lots of personal information. Don’t give out your social security number.
Look for the lock
When paying online, look for the https:// in the vendor’s link. There will also be a lock icon next to it. This means it is secure and your data stays private.
Buying online with a credit card is safer than a debit card. It’s not directly linked to your funds, consumers can request a credit from the vendor if a product isn’t delivered. Some companies limit what you’re liable for if your card is hacked and charged with things you haven’t bought.
Don’t buy on public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi hotspots don’t have the security in place that your home connection does, which makes them easier to hack. Don’t bank or buy when you’re on a public network. Adjust your phone’s security settings to limit who can access your phone.
Anti-Virus, anti-phishing software
Add extra safety measures to your computer with anti-virus software. They remove viruses or malware that can steal your information or identity when you use your credit cards online. Most anti-virus software comes with anti-phishing programs and alerts to inform you of scams. PCMag has compiled a list of the best anti-virus software of 2016.
You can also report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission here.
Biggest Cyber security breaches of 2016
And how to stay safe in 2017!
If 2016 is any indication, cyber security breaches are on the rise, with hackers or cybercriminal groups trying to make a point targeting huge corporations and individual tech gurus alike.
According to CIO, the U.S. government spent $14 billion on cyber security this year and plans to spend $19 billion in 2017. This is an issue that isn’t going away, and it affects everyone from Wall Street to your personal data. Take a look at some of the biggest hacks of this year.
In August of this year hackers accessed 500 million Yahoo user accounts. Users’ email addresses, phone numbers and passwords were all compromised. CNBC reports that this hack was one of the largest on a single site in history. A “state sponsored actor,” possibly a foreign government, was behind the attack. It sold the stolen data on the dark web. A few months later, 1 billion more accounts were compromised. Not a great year for Yahoo.
The Democratic National Committee
It wasn’t a fun year politically or technologically for Democrats either. At least two groups hacked the organization, and when network security firm Crowdstrike investigated, it found that the breaches were linked to “Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries.” Plus, Wikileaks took many of the emails that were hacked and made them public. Great for Bernie Sanders, not for Hillary Clinton.
U.S. Olympic Athletes
The Russian hackers possibly responsible for the DNC breach have also been linked to a hack of the World Anti-Doping Agency database. The hackers call themselves the “Tsar Team” or “Fancy Bear” and stole and released the medical records for big name Olympic Athletes such as gymnast Simone Biles and Venus Williams.
Back in 2012 LinkedIn got hacked. This year, the stolen information appeared online – all 117 million email and password combinations stolen from LinkedIn members.
Mark Zuckerberg and other top tech CEOs
The LinkedIn hack actually helped other hackers get into Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Twitter and Pinterest accounts. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wasn’t safe either- hackers posted a tweet that read “testing your security,” along with a number of Vine videos on his personal account. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai’s Quora account was hacked, also unlocking his Twitter account.
Internal Revenue Service
Everyone’s favorite government arm experienced a data breach last year, but it wasn’t until this past February that they admitted it was a lot bigger than anyone was aware. We’re talking information-stolen-from-more-than-700,000-taxpayers’ big. Some are blaming a Russian criminal hacking operation. Many of the identities stolen were used to file fake tax returns.
Cybercrime will continue to evolve and grow as we head into 2017. Here are a few predictions of what to look out for.
Mobile phones: As smartphones become increasingly sophisticated, so will attacks on them. Many companies have sensitive data that can be accessed through smartphones and without the necessary encryption and safety measures, one person can put an entire organization at risk.
State sponsored attacks: Like the Russian attacks, many experts believe that these kinds of cybercrimes will continue to rise, most likely from Russia and Iran. Top targets will be government entities and individual corporations.
ATMs and at the pump: Skimmers use ATM machines and card readers at the gas pump to steal information from the magnetic strip on your card. Most of these machines haven’t been converted for the new chip readers, which could put more people at risk.
Internet of Things: While everyone is trying to get their devices to sync up to the Internet of Things some devices are being manufactured without enough security measures in place- leaving them susceptible to hackers.
Ransomware will increase: Ransomware is a type of malware that blocks access to a computer or network until a payment is made. Symantec’s Security Response group found that there have been more than 4,000 ransomware attacks per day this year and predict this will likely continue to grow in 2017.
While governments and large corporations scramble to keep up with hacking tactics, there are still ways you can keep yourself safe.
Protect your data with these easy steps:
Change passwords: Change them often, don’t use the same passwords for multiple accounts and be sure to make them complicated. That means lots of letters, numbers and symbols, as well as avoiding information that could be easily figured out by hackers (i.e.: phone numbers, addresses and names).
Watch your money: Most banks will alert you if there is suspicious activity on your account. But it’s important to keep an eye on your credit cards and bank accounts, and when banking online always make sure it’s secure- look for the lock in the link.
Install security software: Investing in security software is a must. These programs can help protect you from malware and ransomware by blocking them from getting in in the first place.
Stay alert for phishing: Often hackers will use phishing emails capitalizing on security breaches of legit companies. They might send you an email pretending to be that company and asking for information. Don’t click on links in email you don’t recognize.
Online Dating Scams and Cyber Safety
It’s a new year, a new you and you’re on the quest for love. Valentine’s Day brings out the romantic in all of us, as well as the scammer in some of us. Every year around Valentine’s Day online dating scams soar. According to CNBC, 1.26 percent of online Valentine’s Day dating transactions in 2014 were fraudulent and the FBI received more than 5,800 romance scam complaints.
The FBI also reports that online dating scammers targeted divorced, widowed or disabled women over 40 the most.
Although these statistics might be cause for alarm, people still turn to dating sites to find love. In fact, 15 percent of U.S. adults report using online dating apps or sites. Rather than write online dating off, we’ve compiled a list of the top scams to watch out for and ways to keep yourself safe as you navigate your dating apps.
Common Online Dating Scams
Email or ad spam
Spammers use links to direct you away from the dating site you are on through the site’s messaging platforms. This can put harmful viruses on your computer, or direct you to a site that might ask for personal information to steal your identity or tap into your finances.
Asking for money scam
Some scammers match with you on a site and then get to know you so they can ask for money. Have they brought up some kind of crisis or need for money? Are they asking for your banking information or to wire them money? You probably have a spammer on your hands.
A catfish or scammer will create a fake profile on a dating site, and trick you into thinking they are someone else or attempt to lure you into sending personal information or money. Some people also catfish to boost their ego, like men who create profiles using a model’s photos in order to match with more women.
How to spot a scam (and avoid and report it)
Tinder and Match are some of the most popular dating sites around. Here are some ways to tell if you are being catfished. Even if you aren’t on these sites, these are good rules for any dating app.
Catfish on Match make their profiles as generic as possible, listing a lot of different interests to cater to more people and to garner more matches based on the websites’ algorithms. Here is an example of a generic spammer profile from SocialCatfish.com, a site that helps people verify if people are who they say they are online.
“I am the type of person who can dress up in a suit and tie come home and change into jeans and work boots and split firewood. I can watch and enjoy a Broadway show and then go down the road and watch a live band perform.”
Here are a few other signs to look out for if you match with someone on the site:
- They ask for money quickly. Sometimes it will be under the guise of a tragic event or need to travel somewhere.
- They are never able to meet in person. Or, they claim they are a U.S. citizen but are abroad for work or a vacation.
- They usually share only the pictures on their profile if you ask for more photos of them.
- They ask for your address with the motive of sending flowers or a gift.
- Their profile or messages are full of errors. These can be spelling, grammatical, or both.
- They claim to be recently widowed.
- Their emails contain links from outside websites.
Unlike Match, with Tinder you use your Facebook profile to set up your account. Spammers create fake Facebook profile so they can create a Tinder account. There are three common scenarios that can happen on Tinder.
- The bots will come for you. If you match with a spammer they might use automated bots to send you replies and also try to steal your personal information by getting you to sign up for something on a different website.
- Real people with Fake Facebook profiles. Rather than use bots, people will set up fake Tinder profiles to directly communicate with people, either to ask for money or steal their identity.
- A catfish with confidence issues. They aren’t trying to steal anyone’s identity, they just make a fake profile to try and meet people online, either just for a connection or to boost their confidence.
Questions to keep you safe
There a few ways to confirm that you have encountered a scammer. Here are some questions you should be asking them or yourself:
Ask them questions about local areas, if they can’t identify or give you an answer, proceed with caution.
Always ask why they need money and never give money to someone online, or respond to their request to wire them money
- Do their photos match their description on their profile?
- Are they asking you to send photos or harassing you with inappropriate messages?
- Can you find them on other social media accounts and do their photos all match up?
- Are they trying to get you to chat on a different platform, rather than the app?
- Have they already confessed undying love for you and also requested money?
Block and Report
Stay safe out there! Love is not only a battlefield, but it can be a minefield of scammers as well.
If you are sure you have encountered a scammer, block and report them immediately. Both Match and Tinder have ways to report concerns about suspicious or inappropriate behavior, as do all reputable dating websites.
You can also report scams to:
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
Plenty of movies make hackers look awesome.
They take down evil corporations, and win one for the little man. In real life, cyberattacks and hacking are major threats to personal and national security. Last year, more than 169 personal records were exposed ranging from financial to healthcare industries.
There were 39 percent more security breaches in 2015 than 2014, and many businesses reported a rise in information and security breaches from employees, accidental and otherwise.
This October, during National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance are focused on education and awareness for personal security. In the past year, more than one-third of U.S. consumers have experienced a cyber-attack, hacking incident, or computer virus in the past year.
This year’s theme is STOP.THINK.CONNECT., and focuses on simple security precautions people can take to keep their online identity and assets safe. For details, visit the NCSAM website.
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