Beware the Cyber Grinch

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December 26, 2017

At this time of year any mention of holiday theft conjures up images of doorstep package stealers copying the habits of the Grinch. As holiday shopping transforms from busy mall visits to ecommerce, many more vulnerable parcels are left outside homes. You might be tempted to protect your deliveries by buying outdoor cameras, or even leaving out fake packages rigged with blank shotgun shells (these exist now!), but such actions alone would ignore the clear, present day danger: the compromise of your personal information.

During the holidays, there is increased activity which helps hackers operate even more covertly. People travel more and, as a result, spend more time on their computers without the security they have at home. Advertisers increase their promotional attempts in ever evolving ways, making it harder to discern real from fake. Consumers transact more during this period and shippers must handle the added volume both before and after the holidays with returned items. All of this increased traffic creates a fertile environment for fraudsters to steal your information. Mindful of this risk, here are some best practices to reduce vulnerability to cyberattack.

Email – Treat unusual emails with great caution, and be especially suspicious of links and attachments. This time of the year you might receive emails inviting you to “click here” to view an e-card, video, or animation. Be sure to check the actual address to ensure it is from someone with whom you are familiar with no misspellings, and that this is a person who would send you something of this nature. Remember, think before you click!

Advertisements – Double check offers via search. Each year we are peppered with emails announcing attractive year-end deals and savings. Be sure to search the offer to determine its validity. If it’s real you can still take advantage of the offer through accessing the retailer’s site securely. Also, make sure to shop only with businesses you trust.

WiFi/Travel – Always use private or secured WiFi networks wherever possible during your holiday travel. Never access sensitive information from unsecured networks.

Software – Keep upgrades up to date for all your devices, including phone, phone apps, operating systems, anti-virus, firewall, and anti-malware software.

Card Monitoring – Routinely check your purchase history for any unapproved transactions. Many companies have our credit card information so you can never be too diligent.

Passwords – Schedule to change passwords at least every 90 days.

If you feel as though you have been the victim of a cyber-attack, two quick steps might save a lot of headache down the road. The first is to disconnect from the internet immediately. This is the best way to stop an attack that may be in progress. You can disconnect by unplugging from the router or disabling network connectivity through the Start menu settings. Second, let your anti-virus and anti-malware software scan your computer to address and eliminate any vulnerabilities, and make use of the free telephone support offered by many of these software providers.

Have a Cyber-safe Happy New Year!

Adam Stimpert

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