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Promoting Cybersecurity Awareness as We Approach International Fraud Awareness Week November 17-23

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Just the word “cybersecurity” is enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck! So many images come to mind – from personal identity theft to paralyzing ransomware installed on your company’s computer system – all of the possibilities are frightening.

One reason why cybercrimes seem to be especially heinous is because it is so hard to protect yourself from them. These crimes, unlike traditional robberies, are conducted remotely by faceless, nameless, almost invisible perpetrators. It can feel overwhelming to try and defend against such situations.

Although you cannot see your assailants, you can be more vigilant and more prepared. By taking early precautionary steps, you can minimize the damage and in some cases, even prevent the crimes from occurring.

What can you do to be preemptive?

There are a number of tips and ideas that you can implement to help keep you safer, but the most important lesson of all is to THINK before you act.

Do not be in a hurry to open an attachment or send off a reply to every email you receive. If there is anything that seems odd, or unusual, hold off before responding. Make sure you are receiving a legitimate message before you act.

Likewise, do not be in a hurry to turn over personal data when conducting business online, whether you are paying bills, shopping, or communicating with friends on Facebook, be wary. Do not assume everything is fine – because it may not be!

Here are some steps you can take to build your own safety net:

1.       When shopping online, read about the vendor, confirm that the site is secure when you are checking out, do not supply any personal information that is not necessary to the transaction, and consider using a single credit card for all your cybershopping so that if it is compromised it has a limited footprint.

 2.       Change your password often; do not use the same passwords on multiple sites and avoid the temptation to use key words like your dog’s name or your child’s birthday. Use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols to make it more challenging to crack your code. You can also use a phrase instead of a word, which will be more confusing for hackers.

 3.       While it is commonplace to use the publicly available WiFi at your local coffee house or at the hotel when traveling, these are not always safe. If you use these options, limit your transactions and messages – but better yet, think about turning off your WiFi and Bluetooth connections  when you are out and about.

 4.       Remember not to click on every link, or open every attachment, that is sent to you, even if it seems to be from someone you know or from a company or organization familiar to you. It is easy to create false but similar-looking logos and email addresses that replicate legitimate sources.

There are so many variants of malicious activities, including phishing and spam, that it is fairly easy for a professional cybercriminal to fool you. There is always a new twist or new initiative that is being enacted, so the best option for you is to be suspicious -  and ready for anything. 

Cybercriminals depend on you to be distracted, rushed, compliant and trusting.  But you know better – and can turn the tables on them by being vigilant, smart, alert, and prepared.