Category: Digital · 7 min read
Avoid Cyber Trouble: Keeping Your Digital Presence Safe
on November 13, 2018
on November 13, 2018
We all know someone who has been hacked or fallen for a spam or phishing email. And usually it’s not as obvious as the classic “I’m your long-lost cousin and I have a large sum of money to gift you” email.
In fact, a lot of the time, fraudulent and malicious emails and scams appear legitimate on the surface. You may not even know you’re being hacked until it’s too late. Clicking on a malicious email can expose your account and computer to a virus or grant a hacker access to your account. To help you protect your digital presence and keep your reputation (and finances) intact, here’s how to avoid being hacked and falling for a malicious email.
You may not even know you’re being hacked until it’s too late.
Attacks are on the Rise
If you’ve seen an increase in scam emails, you’re not alone. Symantec reported that 71 percent of all attacks last year were from phishing emails1 and one-in-nine people experienced some type of email malware in 2017.2
Sooner or later, you’ll probably get a malicious email, and you may even get hacked. To prevent this, you need to take specific precautions and implement some essential security, such as anti-virus software, firewall protection, and wireless security. Having this technology in place can be the difference between being safe or being sorry.
Boost your Password Strength
An easy way to keep hackers at bay is to create a complex password. Short and simple passwords are easy to remember, but they’re also easy to hack. To create a strong password, consider these three tips:
- Make your password longer than eight characters.
- Include numbers and special characters (!@#$%^&*).
- Turn it into a unique passphrase that uses special characters instead of regular letters.
Your password is your front line of defense, so treat it that way. Make one that you can remember and memorize easily, but is also complex and difficult to guess. For example, let’s say New York City is your favorite place. Instead of using “NewYorkCity” as a password, use “N3wY@rkC*ty”. It’s just as easy to remember, but much harder to hack.
Once you have a strong password, make another one. Don’t use the same password twice. You can use a variation of your original password, but make sure that each one is unique and different.
Beware of Phishing Emails
Like I mentioned above, nearly three-out-of-four cyberattacks were phishing emails last year, so you have to be on the lookout.1 But what is a phishing email? And how do you know if an email is fake or real?
Phishing scams are emails that try to lure you to click on links that are infected, similar to how you lure fish into taking your bait. Usually, the email will look and sound legitimate, and come from someone you know and trust.
To not fall for the bait, here are some key indicators to look out for:
- Urgency. Phishing emails usually include words like, “Hurry,” “ASAP,” “Action Required,” or “Need this done by.”
- Direction or request to complete or do something. They like to say things like: “Validate,” “Verify,” “Confirm,” or “Update.”
- Misspelled words and bad grammar. Even if English class wasn’t your forte, watch for misspelled words and poor English. Often, this is a key identifier of a phishing email.
- Requests for your personal information. If an email wants your Social Security number, address, or account information, it’s probably a scam.
- Different web addresses. Look at the email address and links in the email. Often, they will be different than what they should be.
- Pixelated images. Fake emails can come with fake images. Most of the time, they will seem off or poor quality.
- Threats. Many times, there’s a scare factor involved. “If you don’t do this, we will suspend your account immediately.”
- Invitations to edit or view document. This is one of the more recent phishing emails I’ve seen. It poses as a document-sharing invitation, and asks the recipient to click to view, edit, or sign the document.
When you get an email that looks suspicious, slow down and take the time to examine it. Often times, we are in a hurry, so we instantly react to an email that claims it’s “urgent.” Instead, pause and review the email when you have more time, and trust your gut when something looks out of place.
When you get an email that looks suspicious, slow down and take the time to examine it.
More than Just Email
These days, phishing goes beyond email. Hackers are smart, and they’re upping their game to trick people. The same concept has also been applied to texts and direct messaging on social media. Be on the lookout for suspicious and unexpected messages and texts, and make sure your social media passwords are strong and secure.
Hackers are also testing us. They’re learning more about how we behave online and what we will respond to. In other words, they’re getting to know their target audience. This means phishing emails will look very real, and will come from people you know. Your friends’ email accounts are getting hacked, and they are using that as bait.
Be on the lookout for suspicious and unexpected messages and texts, and make sure your social media passwords are strong and secure.
If you get a Suspicious Email…
…STOP and do these four things:
- Do NOT click on any of the links in the email.
- Consider these questions: Is this normal? Would the sender of the email be asking or telling me this?
- Check to see if the links and the email address are legitimate. Watch for subtle misspellings or additional characters in the web address.
- Call the person you got the email from to see if the request is legitimate.
You are the Key
At the end of the day, you are ultimately responsible for keeping your digital presence safe and secure. Take the time to create a good password, implement some additional security, and be wary of potentially harmful emails, and you’ll be on the right track to staying protected.
1. Symantec. “Infrastructure Attacks, Stealthy Mining—Threats go Big and Small.” 2018. Web. https://interactive.symantec.com/ISTR?CID=70138000001MD17AAG.
2. Symantec. “Internet Security Threat Report: Email Threats 2017.” 2017. Web. https://www.symantec.com/content/dam/symantec/docs/security-center/white-papers/istr-email-threats-2017-en.pdf.
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