Cyber safety critical in today’s digital world

Image courtesy of the 837th Cyberspace Operations Squadron.

Image courtesy of the 837th Cyberspace Operations Squadron.

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --

“Warning, your computer is infected! Our system detected multiple viruses on your device. These viruses may cause critial system failure. Click here to get Guardian virus protection.”

Anybody who has surfed the Internet has seen messages like the one above. They are part of scams that make cyber criminals billions of dollars each year. Over the last couple of years, scam artists have gotten more sophisticated. Recently, they have been using the phone to try to break into your computer. They call, claiming to be computer techs connected with security companies, stating they detected viruses or other malware on your computer.

They try and trick you into giving them remote access or paying for software you don’t need. They normally succeed by using scare tactics that create a sense of urgency.

According to Microsoft, one of the companies these scam artists claim to be, you should never give a third party access to your computer and never provide your credit card number to someone who claims to be from these tech support companies.

You can never rely on caller ID since most of these companies “spoof” the caller ID so the call looks as if it was coming from a number in your city. However, most of these calls originate somewhere outside the country. Another scam that is gaining momentum is malware referred to as ransomware.

Ransomware has risen over the last couple of years accounting for almost 71 percent of all malware on the Internet, as reported by Security Week magazine. According to Leo Leporte, owner of Tech Guy Labs, there are several rules somebody should use when using a computer in regards to malware:

·         Use Google Chrome; It’s far more secure;

·         Don’t click on links in email;

·         Only get software from original vendors;

·         Be sure to keep antivirus software up to date;

·         Stop using Java;

·         Use a password vault like LastPass or Dashlane; and

·         Turn on second factor authentication.

Of course, not all computing is equal, when sharing sensitive information such as banking activity, never use a public computer. As mentioned earlier if you use a password vault these programs include a password generator. These tools create strong passwords and store the passwords encrypted so the user does not have to remember the password. Exercising good password procedures, (e.g. never using the same password for more than one website) is essential when shopping online.

When shopping online, ensure you only supply credit card information over a secure connection. Generally, when browsing the Internet, the URL begins with the letters “http.” However, over a secure connection the address displayed should begin with “https.” Also, there should be a green lock somewhere in the window of the browser. The green lock can be clicked on to reveal details of the site’s security.

This function is important because some of the websites that spread malware are registered to websites similar to other popular websites. An example would be if you fat fingered facebook.com and entered facebool.com, it is possible that the incorrectly entered web address has infected software and your computer can be infected if you visit that website.

Also, never go to a website through an email link. Anybody can send you an email and “spoof” the address to look like it came from a legitimate site. Instead, exit your email and go directly to the site.

Staying safe is not only important for you, but also for all of those individuals in your address book. Don’t be the victim of a scam. More information on this subject can be found at www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.