The recent WannaCry ransomware attack that infected more than 250,000 computers worldwide was a good reminder to everyone about staying vigilant when it comes to internet safety.
After all, many of us stay connected most of the time, whether it’s on our laptops or mobile devices, giving cybercriminals a wide range of opportunities to go after our personal and financial information, as well as our privacy.
The good news is that safeguarding your internet security, and preventing an attack like WannaCry, can be as simple as keeping your software up-to-date, and taking other preventative measures. The key is knowing which threats to look out for, and when you are taking potential risks.
Let’s start by talking about our mobile devices. Although many of us have been taught to look out for viruses and other threats on our computers, we don’t always realize that our mobile devices are just as vulnerable as our desktops.
The truth is dangerous links and downloads can be easily accessed using mobile browsers and email. And, our devices can open us up to new threats like malicious apps or text messages, designed to steal your information.
And if you think you’re protected from many online threats because you are an Apple user, think again. McAfee Labs found in its latest Quarterly Threat Report that malware exploiting the Mac operating system has grown exponentially.
Another instance where we often don’t realize we’re at risk is when we use technology while travelling or away from home. Connecting to public Wi-Fi networks can be dangerous because many of these networks do not take the necessary steps to protect your data from being accessed by cybercrooks. It’s just as risky to use public or shared computers since the bad guys will sometimes infect them with malware or spyware designed to steal your information.
Our heavy use of social media is another area where we face new threats. Although these sites are made for sharing, we tend to share too much of our private information, opening us up to identity theft, or even harassment. That’s why we need to safely guard information such as our home address, employer, phone number, and email. It’s also wise to change your social media privacy settings to “friends only.” When we open our networks up to people who we don’t know in real life, we also open the door to potential scammers.
These scammers love to distribute phishing attacks on social media and via email and text. Their goal is to trick you into revealing personal or financial information. Take, for instance, the recent “Google Docs” attack, in which scammers sent out fake emails that appeared to come from a trusted source, asking recipients to click on a link to open a Google document, with the hopes of gaining access to their email login and contact information.
Account login information is highly valuable to scammers, since it can potentially allow them to login into or guess your banking passwords, and other crucial financial or identity information. This is a good reason to opt for the highest security settings on all your accounts, such as multi-factor authentication. This security measure asks you to provide an additional piece of information other than your password to verify your identity, such as entering a unique code that is sent to your mobile phone.
There are a lot of threats that we all need to be aware of, but by taking basic precautions and staying vigilant about what you share online you will be much better protected from cybercrime.
Tips to keep you safe:
- Keep on top of the latest threats so you know what to look out for.
- Make sure you use comprehensive security software that protects both your computers and mobile devices, and keep the software up-to-date.
- Turn on automatic updates on all your devices so your operating systems always have the latest security fixes.
- Create unique, complex passwords using a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols for all your critical accounts.
- Turn on multi-factor authentication when available.
- Never click on attachments or links sent by someone you don’t know. These often lead to malware or phishing scams.
- Be careful when downloading mobile apps. Only download apps from an official app store, and read other users’ reviews first to make sure the app is safe.
- Backup all your data on a regular basis, in case you need to wipe your device clean, or as a safeguard in response to ransomware. This way you can restore all of your information.
- Be careful when posting on social networks. Never share key identity information, and select the highest security settings.
- When away from home, avoid using public Wi-Fi and stick to websites that start with “HTTPS” instead of just “HTTP”, since they use extra security to protect your information. If you must use an unsecured network, protect your data by installing a personal VPN, which links you to a secure network over the internet.
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