Cybersecurity Tips Blog

You may think that all you have to do is install a security program like anti-virus software and you are safe from getting infected. Unfortunately, anti-virus cannot stop all malware. Cyber criminals are constantly developing new and more sophisticated malware that can evade detection. In turn, anti-virus vendors are constantly updating their products with new capabilities to detect malware. In many ways it has become an arms race, and the bad guys are usually one step ahead. Since you cannot rely on anti-virus alone, here are additional steps you should take to protect yourself:

  • Cyber criminals often infect computers or devices by exploiting vulnerabilities in your software. The more current your software is, the fewer vulnerabilities your systems have and the harder it is for cyber criminals to infect them. Make sure your operating systems, applications, browser and browser plugins, and devices are always updated and current. The easiest way to ensure this is to enable automatic u...

Your mobile devices are an amazing and easy way to communicate with friends, shop or bank online, watch movies, play games, and perform a myriad of other activities. Since your devices are such an important part of your life, here are some simple steps to keep you and your devices safe and secure.

Securing Your Devices

It may surprise you to know that the biggest risk to your mobile device is not hackers, but most likely you. You are far more likely to lose or forget a mobile device then have someone hack into it. The number one thing you should do to protect your devices is enable automatic locking of the screen, often called a screen lock. This means every time you want to use your device you first have to unlock the screen, such as with a strong passcode or your fingerprint. This helps ensure that no one can access your device if it is lost or stolen. Here are several more tips to help protect your devices:

Updating

Enable automatic updating on your devices so they are always runni...

Email is still one of the primary ways we communicate, both in our personal and professional lives. However, we can quite often be our own worst enemy when using email. In this newsletter, we will explain the most common mistakes people make with email and how you can avoid them in your day-to-day lives.

Auto Complete
Auto complete is a common feature found in most email clients. As you type the name of the person you want to email, your email software automatically selects their email address for you. This way, you do not have to remember the email address of all your contacts, just their names. The problem with auto complete is that when you have multiple contacts that share similar names, it is very easy for auto complete to select the wrong email address for you. For example, you may intend to send an email with all of your organization’s financial information to “Fred Smith,” your coworker in accounting. Instead, auto complete selects the email address for “Fred Johnson,” your neig...

Ransomware is a special type of malware that is actively spreading across the Internet today, threatening to destroy victim’s documents and other files. Malware is software--a computer program--used to perform malicious actions. While ransomware is just one of many different types of malware, it has become very common because it is so profitable for criminals. Once ransomware infects your computer, it encrypts certain files or your entire hard drive. You are then locked out of the whole system or cannot access your important files, such as your documents or photos. The malware then informs you that the only way you can decrypt your files and recover your system is to pay the cyber criminal a ransom (thus the name ransomware). Most often, the ransoms must be paid in some form of digital currency, such as Bitcoin. Ransomware spreads like many other types of malware. The most common method involves emailing victims malicious emails, where cyber criminals trick you into opening an infected...

Why can email attachments be dangerous?

Some of the characteristics that make email attachments convenient and popular are also the ones that make them a common tool for attackers:

  • Email is easily circulated – Forwarding email is so simple that viruses can quickly infect many machines. Most viruses don't even require users to forward the email—they scan a users' computer for email addresses and automatically send the infected message to all of the addresses they find. Attackers take advantage of the reality that most users will automatically trust and open any message that comes from someone they know.

  • Email programs try to address all users' needs – Almost any type of file can be attached to an email message, so attackers have more freedom with the types of viruses they can send.

  • Email programs offer many "user-friendly" features – Some email programs have the option to automatically download email attachments, which immediately exposes your computer to any viruses within...

Chain letters are familiar to anyone with an email account, whether they are sent by strangers or well-intentioned friends or family members. Try to verify the information before following any instructions or passing the message along.

Why are chain letters a problem?

The most serious problem is from chain letters that mask viruses or other malicious activity. But even the ones that seem harmless may have negative repercussions if you forward them:

  • they consume bandwidth or space within the recipient's inbox

  • you force people you know to waste time sifting through the messages and possibly taking time to verify the information

  • you are spreading hype and, often, unnecessary fear and paranoia

What are some types of chain letters?

There are two main types of chain letters:

  • Hoaxes - Hoaxes attempt to trick or defraud users. A hoax could be malicious, instructing users to delete a file necessary to the operating system by claiming it is a virus. It could also be a scam that co...

Once your computer is connected to the Internet, it’s also connected to millions of other computers, which could allow attackers access to your computer. Information flows from the Internet to your home network by first coming into your modem, then into your router and finally into your computer. Although cable modem, digital subscriber line (DSL), and internet service providers (ISP) purport some level of security monitoring, it’s crucial to secure your router—the first securable device that receives information from the Internet. Be sure to secure it before you connect to the Internet to improve your computer’s security.

Intruders can attack your computer by exploiting software vulnerabilities (that is, flaws or weaknesses), so the less software you have installed, the fewer avenues for potential attack. Check the software installed on your computer. If you don’t know what a software program does and don’t use it, research it to determine whether it’s necessary. Remove any software you feel isn’t necessary after confirming it’s safe to remove the software.

Back up important files and data before removing unnecessary software in case you accidentally remove software essential to the operating system. If possible, locate the installation media for the software in case you need to reinstall it.

Now that we are into tax season, scammers are looking to steal tax documents, file fraudulent returns in victims’ names, and extort payment with false threats of IRS action due to outstanding tax bills. Here are a few tips on avoiding these schemes.

File your taxes as early as you can

By filing your taxes early, scammers aiming to use your personal information to file a fraudulent return in your name will be unable to do so. They can’t file if you beat them to it!

Never click a link in an email notifying you of available tax documents

Always go to your browser and type in your company’s online W-2 or tax document retrieval service URL to avoid many common phishing scams. This will ensure you go to the right website and get your documents safely.

Avoid IRS impersonation scams

The IRS will never contact you over the phone or email to ask for payment of an overdue tax bill. Criminals frequently make such calls and can request payment by normal means or by prepaid gift cards, and any contact lik...

Anti-virus (AV) software scans files for certain patterns or signatures of known viruses. Virus authors continually release new and updated viruses, which is why it is important to always have the latest AV version installed on your computer.

Set your AV software to scan your system automatically. And remember to manually scan files you get before opening them. These include files you download from the Internet, email attachments, and files on USB drives and other media.

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