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4 minutes reading time (774 words)

Cybercrime - tips to avoid cybercrime

  1. Cybercrime is real. Municipalities, corporations, government agencies and people just like you can get viruses, malware and even ransomware. Ransomware is particularly dangerous in that it encrypts all of your data so it can’t be opened or read. Victims will often pay heavy sums to get the “antidote”. I have a friend who works at CDC whose elderly mother fell for this trap and ended up paying $300,000, her entire savings in the scam.
  1. Make sure your internet connection at home is secure using a strong password (at least 8 characters including special characters like ! ^$). Do not use the same password for all of your online accounts, especially banking. If it’s been more than a month since last changing passwords, it would be wise to change them all now since there have been massive cyber break-ins that could affect you – with Amazon, Google and Facebook and many more, for example.
  1. When shopping online, make sure before you purchase anything to verify the connection is secure, with the address showing: https and a small padlock icon in the URL address bar.
  1. Keep your devices (computers, laptops, tablets, cell phones) up to date. These updates often include security patches and are good defenses from viruses, malware, ransomware and other online threats.
  1. Only login to your banking, credit card or other financial online services at home or work where you have a secure connection. Never access your financial information at a public location such as a coffee house or even a hotel on any device, including your cell phone. Your internet connection in public locations is often not secure and your username/passwords can easily be stolen. Don’t take the chance.
  1. Watch out for phishing scams. You might get an email that concerns you about an unknown purchase, a request to reset your username/password or anything that might seem suspicious. 

  2. Never open any attachments such as a pdf, zip file or Microsoft office document from unknown sources as these might contain macros that install malicious software. Also, do not click on any links from untrusted senders. These can take you to sites that download malware or viruses without being detected. Always check the email address of suspicious senders. Often, it is unrelated to the content of the email. For example, you might get an email from FedEx, Apple or Amazon, however the senders email address is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The domain name should be the same as the company mentioned in the email.
  1. Especially if you’re on Facebook, do not share information about pending vacations, trips or anything personal online. If a criminal knows your plans they can find where you live and break into your home when you are away. It’s also best not to post your birthdate on public sites, or names that could be used to help crack your passwords, i.e., be cautious about using names of pets, or nicknames of grandchildren or children, etc.
  1. Your friends on Facebook and other media may ask you to copy and paste something they found elsewhere and now want you to do the same. The problem with this is that all too often those oft-shared posts can have malware and computer viruses that can infect your computer and the ones with whom you share!  I recommend you stay away from these kinds of invitations. 
  1. Never give any PII (Personal Identifiable Information) on the phone, including your birthday, social security number or any banking information. No government agency will ask for this information. In addition, the IRS will never email you regarding you filing status.
  1. Don’t throw your personal information in the trash without first shredding it, tearing it up or blocking out sensitive information with a marker.
  1. Check your credit card statements each month and immediately report any unapproved activities.
  1. Windows 10 offers Windows Defender that should protect your system in real time, however that service can be compromised. A good, inexpensive alternative is Malwarebytes that can protect your computer and periodically scans your computer for any threat. While PC’s running Windows are the most targeted operating systems, Mac OS is also vulnerable as well if you do not take precautions.
  1. Finally, if you think you are the victim of a cybercrime, Do Not Panic. Shut down your computer and call an IT specialist for help.
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Living with awareness of our mortality
 

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