Advances in communications technology have been very helpful in many respects, but when it comes to cybersecurity, the simplicity of connecting can be a double-edged sword.
While it’s easier than ever to share photos, keep up with school activities or close the garage door, our stream-lined communication platforms have made it easier for cybercriminals to connect with us too.
Any device connected to the internet is a possible target, whether it’s a laptop, smart appliance or smart phone. So, to start, the most basic element of online protection for you and your family is running antivirus software on all computers and connected devices and keeping up with software updates to avoid being exposed to known security vulnerabilities. And for every internet enabled device, it is always safest to connect to the internet using password protected Wi-Fi. Connecting to public Wi-Fi at a restaurant or coffee shop can be a dangerous proposition as a criminal can easily setup a fake public Wi-Fi access point and collect whatever personal data, passwords or other information you provide while using that network. A best practice is to use LTE or your phone’s hotspot to connect online when you are away from home. Another level of security you might consider, especially if you have frequent guests or smart appliances is setting up a 2nd Wi-Fi network, and running Internet of Things devices like your refrigerator through your guest Wi-Fi. This way if your 2nd network is compromised, the devices you use for more sensitive data would still be protected.
Social Engineering and Spoofing
As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, you should always be cautious of emails from people you don’t know because they may contain malicious links designed specifically to get you to click them. If you ever want to inspect a link just hover your mouse over it and the actual URL will appear in the bottom left corner of your browser. Hover your mouse over this link – you can see at the bottom of the browser the URL is legitimate – it starts out with our company name (waldronprivatewealth) and includes a logical extension – in this case it’s an article name. The actual URL from a spoof link will look much different than the company website it purports to be from. The company you have an account with will have purchased the actual domain (www.chase.com) so the criminal will need to create something that they hope will look plausible, but under close inspection will be a bit off, something like www.freeonlinechasebanking.ru. Misspellings are another dead giveaway that an email or link is not to be trusted and should be deleted or ignored. And if you ever receive an email indicating that you need to address something urgently, be it from your cable company, credit card or cell service provider, don’t click the link. If you think the message may be legitimate, go the company’s website directly and login from there to check your messages. Urgent email messages with a call to action should always be a big red flag.
Protecting Your Kids
Technology has had a big impact on our kids’ lives too. From smart phones, to email to entertainment – the online aspects of kids’ lives are running 24/7 and are just as susceptible to criminal activity as yours. Maybe more, because the odds are pretty good that they haven’t been reading up on social engineering and cybersecurity best practices. When setting up any account for your child, it is always recommended that you exclude any personally identifiable information (PII) in the public components of the account, like their user name or account profile. Using their actual name, home address or any other piece of PII can be used by criminals to set up a fake credit card, membership or other type of fraudulent account. It’s also a good idea to set up parental controls on any connected devices that they use so that they cannot browse the internet unfettered and unsupervised. If they have Xbox live or any online gaming account, make sure they play in a room where you are able to see who they are playing with, and adjust the settings so that they are not able to make in-game purchases. And perhaps most important of all is to make sure you have a direct conversation with your kids about the criminals who operate online, what to watch out for and what they should do if they come across anything suspicious. Social engineering and spoofing are favorite techniques cybercriminals use to take advantage of every mark on the web, regardless of their age.