December 14, 2020

Eight Ways to Maintain Cyber Security Vigilance During the Holiday Season

As we approach the holiday season, it is imperative to have heightened awareness and maintain cyber security vigilance to protect yourself against a potential cyberattack. Due to the hectic pace of online purchases during these months, scammers have an abundance of opportunities commit fraud and capture sensitive information.

To protect yourself from a potential cyberattack, you should always practice good cyber hygiene which refers to the practices that electronic device users should employ to ensure the security of sensitive information. Examples of sensitive information include your credit card and banking information, health information, social security number, and other personal details that comprise your identity.

Continually practicing good cyber hygiene will keep you safe year-round, and especially during the holidays. Below are eight best practices that you should begin employing at work and at home to keep you safe:

  1. Think before you click - Look at email very carefully. Pay attention to little details, including:
  • The email address of the sender - Especially emails from external sources. Scammers mimic familiar email addresses. For example, if the email “from” reads “Kepro Support” but the associated email address is something different (hover to read the actual address if it’s not visible), it’s a very likely spam or a phishing message.
  • Grammar - Odd grammar or misspelled words should make you suspicious.
  • Attachments - Never open attachments from people you don’t know. However, you should also be wary of unexpected attachments from people that you do
  • Links – Hover over links to verify their validity. Do not click links that seem even a little off. If the linked site asks for your credentials, don’t do it!
  1. Use strong passwords - Or better yet, use passphrases. Always use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Password length is important, the longer the better. A passphrase is easy to remember and provides good length. MyD0g1sFurry&W@rm is more secure than Fido1234. Use a different password or passphrase for every account.
  2. Use two-factor authentication - If a site offers the use of a PIN sent to your smartphone or a phone call, use it. Two-factor authentication involves something you know and something you have. If the scammer manages to get the something you know, such as your password, they don’t have the something you have, such as your phone.
  3. Make sure the sites you use are secure - Look for the padlock symbol in the browser address line, particularly prior to sharing sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card, etc. It is good practice to use your credit card online to make purchases, not your debit card.
  4. Avoid public WiFi - Public WiFi is never secure. Use your cell phone carrier’s network on your smartphone. For a laptop connection, use a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN).
  5. Back up your data – For all devices, it is imperative to have backups that are always up-to-date.
  6. Use anti-virus software/firewalls and keep them up to date - Always. Period.
  7. Validate anything that seems suspicious – Methods to validate suspicious activities, include:
  • Call the person or company – To verify an unexpected message that you received
  • Visit the known website - See if the deal or shipping notification you received is valid
  • Search for the topic - For example, search for “FedEx scam” if you receive an unexpected shipping notification from what appears to be FedEx. You can also confirm your suspicions at snopes.com:  https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/category/fraud/.

That extra couple minutes that you spend verifying something that seems just off and suspicious will very likely save you, and others, a big headache. I hope you all have a safe, healthy and secure holiday season!

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