No doubt, we have a lot to be hopeful for as we step into the New Year. We’ve adapted, survived, and learned to thrive under extraordinary circumstances. While faced with plenty of challenges, families successfully transitioned to working and learning from home like pros. So, as we set our intentions for 2021, we will need that same resolve to tackle growing cyber threats.
The good news: With a COVID-19 vaccine making its debut, we’re trusting there’s an end in sight to the pandemic of 2020, which may help curb a lot of our emotional as well as digital stressors.
The not-so-good-news: According to McAfee’s latest Quarterly Threat Report, pandemic-themed threats that began in 2020 will continue, specifically, phishing and malware scams targeting people working from home. According to the recent report, bad actors are especially taking advantage of the mass remote workforces.
According to Raj Samani, McAfee Fellow and Chief Scientist, “What began as a trickle of phishing campaigns and the occasional malicious app quickly turned into a deluge of malicious URLs, attacks on cloud users and capable threat actors leveraging the world’s thirst for more information on COVID-19 as an entry mechanism into systems across the globe.”
This report points inspires a few best practices for families as we launch a new year: Stay informed and keep talking about the threats and — as grandma might advise — dress in layers to protect against the elements (in this case, digital threats).
Safe Family Tips
- Information is power.The best defense against online threats is a good offense, which is the digital space means staying informed. The more you know about how hackers exploit consumers, the more you can dodge shady phishing scams such as emails trying to sell you the COVID-19 vaccine online or a voucher allowing you to skip the vaccination line.
- Verify email sources.Be skeptical of emails or text messages claiming to be from people you know or organizations with requests or offers that seem too good to be true. Before you click, go straight to the organization’s website or contact customer service. Verifying sources will help you steer clear of downloading malicious content from phishing links. Remind family members to keep their guards up and never to share personal information.
- Hover over links, scrutinize URLs.If someone sends you a message with a link, hover over the link without clicking on it. This will allow you to see a link preview. If the URL looks suspicious, delete the message. A few red flags: Fake links generally imitate established websites but may include unnecessary words and domains in the address. When in doubt about a link’s validity — don’t click.
- Think in layers.When it comes to cybersecurity for the new year, try thinking (or dressing) your devices in layers. A few ways to layer up:
• Use 2FA passwords. Regularly changing passwords and adding two-factor authentication (2FA) is proving to be the most effective way to thwart hackers. If you work from home, 2FA is a more secure way to access work applications. This password/username combo requires you to verify who you are with a personal device only you own puts an extra barrier between your data and a creative hacker.
• Use a VPN. If you travel or choose to work in a coffee shop, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) will give your family an encrypted channel that shields your online activity from hackers.
• Security software. If you’ve been cobbling your security plan together, consider one comprehensive security solution to help protect you from malware, phishing attacks, and viruses. Leading products such as McAfee Total protection will include safe browsing and a VPN.
The past year, while difficult, also gave us several gifts to carry into 2021. For families, it connected us with our resilience and creativity. It made us wiser, braver, and more ready for the challenges ahead, be they online or within the ebb and flow of everyday life. That’s something we can all celebrate.