How to Protect Yourself from Cybercrime in 2017-18

A few months ago we shared an infographic on cyberattack prevention. Is there a need for more advice on the matter? Absolutely. The biggest concern about cybercrime is that it evolves fast in an attempt (and often successfully so) to keep one step ahead of cybersecurity.

Digital criminals all over the world work around the clock to come up with the latest malware, ransomware, spyware and an assortment of hack tactics. These criminals are not just out to get the government and big business, they want you too. They want your personal and financial information, and they know where to find it. They are at the door and all that it takes is an inadvertent opening (from you) and they’ll kick it in to get what they need. Thankfully, there are practical yet highly effective preventative measures that can be taken today, and Park Insurance is there to share them with you.

9 Easy-to-Follow Steps to Protect Yourself from Hacks and Cybercrime

1. Dont Open Attachments or Links in Emails from People You Don’t Trust

Your email provider spam filter is supposed to send junk and potentially threatening emails to your spam folder. But things get through the cracks and can land in your inbox. If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open the email. If you must open the email (i.e. your interested in receiving solicitations from certain product/service providers, etc.) don’t open an attachment or link unless you’re absolutely certain of its origin. Cybercriminals hide malicious code in attachments and links, and all that it takes is a click or tap to unleash it on your systems.

2. Don’t Open Attachments or Links from People You Know When Out of Character 

If you see an email, Skype, or social media message from a friend, family member, or coworker but the messaging and content seems to be out of character, then something may be amiss. Skilled cybercriminals may have hijacked their account, and used their content list to spread malware, ransomware, or spyware.

What’s out of character? It’s often a solicitation, encouraging you to check out an article or video, using a casual tone, such as “Hey, check out this crazy video!” with no other context provided. If it seems a bit out of nowhere then leave it alone and instead send the person a separate text or email to ask if it was them. If you do have a friend, family member, or coworker who does tend to send you random links to content, well, what are you really missing out on by erring on the side of caution, another video of a cat playing a piano? Better safe than sorry.

3. Use Different Email Accounts for Different Things

Cybercriminals often depend upon email harvesting services. Emails are collected from sign-ups required of forums, contest sites, and the like, while others are indiscriminately collected by computer programs that crawl the web to capture emails wherever they may be made visible to bots. Minimize your risk by using different email accounts. Use one to correspond solely with the network of people you know and trust. This email should be the one you check daily, from your personal laptop or PC (where your sensitive personal information is kept). Use a completely different email for forums, chatrooms, and eCommerce activities and when possible, login using a different device such as a tablet or smartphone (as long as you don’t keep sensitive information on either).

4. Don’t Display Your Email for Bots

The programs addressed above use bots to crawl the web. These bots look for symbols that tell them an email address is displayed. This includes the “@” symbol in addition to “.” (as used in .com, .ca, etc.). If you must display your email address on your blog or business website, spell out the symbols. Need an example? Instead of “jane@example.com” display “jane[at]example[dot]com”. Don’t worry about missing out on contacts, real people will know what that means.

5. Don’t Unsubscribe from Something You Didn’t Subscribe To

This is a very common mistake that can increase your spam load exponentially. It begins with you receiving emails from some content, product, or service provider. There is a very clear “Unsubscribe” option under the body of content, which leads you to think that at some point in the past you signed up to get these emails in the first place. You hit “Unsubscribe” and feel pretty good about yourself immediately after. Then all of a sudden, you find you’re getting a whole new wave of spam. What happened, is that you verified the existence of an active email with the perpetrator and your email is now being harvested for further use. Simply put, unless you know that you did indeed sign-up to receive emails from a source, do not hit that “Unsubscribe” (or similar term) link.

6. Install Reputable Cybersecurity Software

When you purchase a new laptop or desktop (or have a currently unprotected one) opt for the cybersecurity install from the trusted seller. Alternatively, you may be able to get your office IT guy/gal to do it for you. Or you may have a good friend that is an expert in such matters. These are all viable options, all long as the software comes with features that include anti-spam, anti-virus, anti-malware and a firewall.

Don’t however, take up an offer from an outside solicitor that came via digital communication, phone included. This could be a cybercriminal who is locked and loaded with the latest malware, ransomeware, or spyware.

7. Don’t Hand Over Remote Access

Avoid remote access to your computer at all costs. This opens up a gateway to potential hackers. Let’s say you contacted a software provider to inquire about installation. During this communication, your contact information may have been lifted. You may then receive a call from someone claiming to be with that company, and that they can assist you as long as you enable remote access to your computer. Once again, you have likely stumbled onto the path of a cybercriminal who can now do as they please with your systems. This is not a far fetched scenario, as there have been well-publicized  instances of hackers who claim to be calling from Microsoft tech support. This is one “remote” that should be left between the sofa cushions, for good.

8. Keep Up to Date (Software)

Update your operating systems, software, and plugins where applicable. As mentioned, cybercrime evolves in real time and updates to your computer’s operating system and your software address the advances in the hacker world.  Select the “update automatically option” where available. Otherwise, take note of the next time you receive an update alert from your trusted provider, backup your data and perform the update. It may very well save you from a threat that lurks around the next digital corner.

9. Keep Up to Date (You)

Update your own knowledge surrounding cybersecurity in real time. You don’t need to become an expert, but you should at least receive current event updates on the matter. Set a Google Alert for “cyber attack” which will deliver current news that could come in handy, and be sure to stay tuned to our blog as we keep you updated on how to best shield yourself, home, and/or business from cybercrime.

Don’t forget to also stay up-to-date on the latest insurance coverages available to protect your assets.  Learn more about cyber insurance or call us today to speak with an experienced insurance advisor.