Happy Holidays: The Season Of Cyberattacks

The year 2020 has, in many ways, been the year of COVID. Whether or not you have had COVID-19, it is a safe bet that your life has in some way been impacted by the pandemic.

As is usually the case, cybercriminals are at the forefront of exploiting every opportunity they can.

A look at Google trends for coronavirus (https://trends.google.com/trends/story/US_cu_4Rjdh3ABAABMHM_en) shows how prevalent the topic is and continues to be.

This desire for information has led to a third of the cyberattacks in the United States (and a quarter of the attacks in the UK) being coronavirus-related. Like most cybersecurity attacks, these are often of the ransomware variety.

These attacks are increasingly targeting heath care facilities, but anyone can be a target. Since these medical facilities are overwhelmed and COVID leads most of the news today, people are on data overload while trying to manage their immediate concerns – and can become complacent when dealing with potential threats.

As we must remain vigilant in keeping ourselves medically safe, we must do the same to keep ourselves technologically safe. A few best practices are:

• Don’t open an attachment unless you know who it is from and you are expecting it.

• Use the same level of caution with email messages that instruct you to enable macros before downloading Word or Excel attachments as you would with a live cobra. Don’t touch it!

• Use anti-virus software on your machine, and make sure it’s kept up-to-date with the latest virus definitions.

• If you receive an attachment from someone you don’t know, don’t open it. Delete it immediately.

• Learn how to recognize phishing:

– Messages that contain threats to shut your account down

– Requests for personal information such as passwords or Social Security numbers

– Words like “Urgent” – a false sense of urgency will encourage you to act

– Forged email addresses

– Poor writing or bad grammar

• Hover your mouse over links before you click on them to see if the URL looks legitimate.

• Instead of clicking on links, open a new browser session and manually type in the address.

• Don’t click the “Unsubscribe” link in a spam email. It would only let the spammer know your address is legitimate, which could lead to you receiving more spam.

• Understand that reputable businesses will never ask for personal information via email.

• Don’t send personal information in an email message.

Tech Experts can assist with keeping you safe by providing support, running backups, and ensuring that your devices and software are up-to-date.

However, even with these safeguards in place, it is important that you do your part and do your best to act responsibly and thoughtfully when dealing with technology.

Messages that ask you to click for COVID news, updates, cures, etc. that you are not expecting should be treated as a potential threat. Obtain news from trusted sites.

While our interest in COVID is high, that is what makes it such an effective method of lowering people’s guards. Relatedly, as we head into the holiday season, watch out for “There is a problem with your delivery – click here” emails and other similar traps.

If cybercriminals, hackers, and spammers can find an opportunity, they’ll take advantage of it regardless of a global pandemic or the holidays. You’ve got enough on your plate; staying vigilant will go a long way in preventing the headaches of cyberattacks or identity theft.