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Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft & Other Cybercrimes: Part 2

Some of your most valuable possessions at home and in business are digital. Personal data, account numbers, passwords, and address books are 21st century gold to hackers and other cybercriminals. There are, however, practical, effective steps you can take to protect your digital assets.  

This is the second part of our cybercrime series highlighting advice from cybercrime expert and Retired FBI Special Agent, Jeff Lanza. 

When Trouble Comes Knocking…

Cyberspace can be the digital equivalent of the Wild, Wild West. You likely interact beyond your own network almost every day. Make sure your digital safety fortress follows you. When in doubt, play it safe: 

Enforce a “Do Not Click” Policy on Pop-Ups 

Pop-ups are those annoying notifications that appear on your computer screen without your bidding. Examples include emails that ask you to download a greeting card or a message warning that your computer is infected. DO NOT CLICK on anything in the pop-up. Instead, remove it safely: 

On a Windows computer – Hold down 3 keys—CTL+ALT+DEL 

On a Mac – Hold down 3 keys—CMD+Option+Escape 

Next, run your antivirus software to check for malware on your computer that may have generated the pop-up (see below). 

Extend That “Do Not Click” Policy to Fake Emails 

 A potential fake email is one from an unknown or suspicious sender or containing content that does not make sense or seems “off” when you read it. If you receive such an email: 

  1. Do not click on links or attachments. 
  2. Remember that a friend’s email account can be compromised. Hackers can “spoof” someone’s email address to deliver a message that appears to be from anyone they choose. If in doubt, contact your friend before you click on or download anything. 
  3. Do not react emotionally to an email with a compelling or distressing message. Hackers count on this to overcome logic and encourage bad decisions. Contact the sender or the customer service department of the company involved to verify the message. 

Create a Digital Fortress 

Take the following steps to protect your computer system: 

  • New computer viruses are a constant threat. Configure your computer operating system software and antivirus software to update automatically, so that you keep up with the latest protections. 
  • Antivirus software is a must for Windows computers. Popular options are McAfee, Norton, and Windows Defender. 
  • Strongly consider a malware removal program that does search and destroy missions. Malware is software introduced maliciously into a computer, server, client, or network that is intentionally designed to cause damage. A malware removal program complements (not replaces) your perimeter antivirus program. 
  • Consider password management software to keep track of your [passphrases] – will link to blog #1], such as Keeper, Dashlane, and LastPass. On your smartphone, you can store passphrases using your “Notes” app and secure them with a password. 

Watch Out for Wi-fi 

Protect your wi-fi network with a strong passphrase with WPA2 encryption, a method of securing networks designed for home users without the enterprise authentication servers often used by businesses. 

 Be aware that while free public wi-fi is a great convenience, it is not secure. Better options are a virtual private network (available for a nominal fee) or your smartphone’s personal hotspot feature, which uses the more secure cellular network. 

Be Smart About Phone Security 

Smartphones are fast becoming the digital device of choice. The World Advertising Research Center estimates that 72.6% of internet users will access the web by smartphone only by 2025.  

Here are some protocols to help keep your phone safe from cybercrime: 

  • Use a passcode to protect your phone. Biometrics (fingerprint ID, facial recognition) are also secure, and make your device easier to access. 
  • Do not call, click, or reply to text messages from mystery sources until you verify the authenticity of the sender. 
  • To reveal a preview of a website on phones or pads, press and hold your finger for about two seconds. 
  • If you use your mobile device for online banking and other financial accounts, make sure you download the official apps from the Apple or Google store. Keep your apps up to date, protect your device with a password, and immediately report a lost or stolen device to your financial institutions. 

Beware of Ransomware 

Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to your data by encrypting files or locking your computer screen. The “ransom” part comes when the criminal tries to extort money in exchange for access to your data. Ransomware attacks often begin with a legitimate-looking email that includes an attachment or link for you to click on. Make that click, and the ransomware code installs on your computer. How to avoid victimhood? 

  • As always, be careful where you click. 
  • Back up the content on your computer. Then, if you are infected by ransomware, you can restore your files once your system is wiped clean. 
  • Disconnect your backup hard drive when not in use to avoid its infection by ransomware. Or, back up your computer to the cloud. 

FJY Financial takes cybercrime as seriously as you do. That is why we provide clients 24/7 access to their account information via a secure online portal with two-factor authentication. Our document vault allows us to easily and safely pass confidential information back and forth and store it securely.