Following the Money Conversations

Money is the only reason somebody steals information. Some 70 percent of the emails that lead to information theft are related to either financial institutions, businesses or something that mentions money in the subject line. Another 20 percent are related to espionage, and 5 percent are related to employee grudges. In most cases, curiosity kills your security.

Phishing expeditions are still one of the most effective ways for hackers to get into a computer system, and that’s because people have insatiable curiosity, especially when it comes to money. We’ve told you time and time again to be very careful about the links you click on from within an email. It is so easy for a hacker to mimic the logo of any bank or financial institution and to create an email address that can be close enough to looking real that you won’t notice it’s a fake in your haste to check out a great offer or respond to a dire warning.

So, as we’ve mentioned ad nausea, your curiosity could open the door to a Trojan horse virus that will enable someone to get into your computer. And once they do that, they can insert themselves into your financial conversations. To whom are you talking about money? Is it your financial advisor? Is it an attorney or a CPA? Is it your bank, credit card company or several merchants? They can identify every single one of them just by looking at your email. After all, you keep thousands of them in your Outlook application or on a website – which they can easily find once they get into your computer.

How will they put your email conversations to work for them? Well, let’s see. There’s your financial advisor, who’s been talking to you about your 401(k). Hmm. That’s good. Bet you have the password for that account stored on your computer. That makes it easy.

But wait, what if you “forgot” your password. The hacker can go to the website with your 401(k) and use your email address to reset the password. If that security is lax – say, for example, there’s no two-factor authentication – the hacker can have your email address routed to his, and now he’s in your account and can clean it out.

Of course, that could be just part of his haul. He knows who your financial advisor is, and maybe their system isn’t 100 percent locked down. You can imagine the fallout.

What if you’re involved in a large business transaction, such as buying a business or even a house? Your attorney may be dealing with a financial institution or two – even through another attorney. Again, a hacker can insert himself in a conversation with any party connected to the money, spoofing your email address or that of anyone involved. And once the hacker is into that next system, it opens more doors.

Just to add to your “watch list” when checking your email, also be wary of somebody sending you updated files that you are not expecting. We have a client who clicked on a PDF and wound up with an infected computer. Fortunately, it caused a major inconvenience more than anything else. Because all of the client’s files were backed up offsite, we had to wipe the computer clean and then find the infected files to delete from the backup. We were able to fully restore everything after that, but it took 18 hours.

So, let’s recap the steps you need to take:

  • Look before you click. Do I get this kind of email message from this sender on a regular basis? Is this an offer that’s too good to be true? Is there anything that looks just the least bit out of the ordinary – even if it’s from a sender I know and trust? Remember, you can always access the sender’s website from your Internet browser instead of the email, or you can pick up the telephone and call a company or a person.
  • If something looks odd even before you open the email, just delete it. I am amazed at how many people just let something suspicious just sit there.
  • Don’t conduct financial business or visit passworded sites while on a public Wi-Fi network. Non-secured networks can be viewed by anyone from anywhere.
  • Be very careful with flash drives. Someone can use one to invade your computer. If you are running a good anti-virus or anti-malware program, it should intercept any external device and give you the option to scan it.
  • Keep your anti-virus and anti-malware software up to date. And make sure they’re both running.

Finally, if you suspect your computer has been infected with a virus, call us immediately at 973-433-6676. We can assess your system and begin the process of restoring its health. If you have any questions about online security, call us or email us. We all have too much at stake.

Two More Tips to Protect Your Money

  1. When you travel by air, don’t just throw your boarding pass in the first trash bin you find in the terminal. The barcode on the pass has a wealth of information, including your frequent flyer account information – and any other personal information in that database – and your itinerary, which can let somebody know how far away from home you are and how long you will be away. If you can’t shred it, tear it into pieces that also separate the barcode and throw them into different trash bins.
  2. Check all of your financial accounts frequently, especially with business bank accounts. When you have a lot of money coming in and going out electronically, that means a lot bank treasury departments are accessing your account. If you monitor the accounts regularly, you have a much better chance of catching fraudulent activity.

The Firewall is Mightier Than the Electrical Tape

Electronic Peeping Toms are always a concern, and putting a piece of electrical tape is one way of drawing the curtains on your laptop’s camera lens. A better way is to make sure you have a strong firewall activated, strong password protection for your network and the latest anti-virus and anti-malware software running. Here’s your checklist.

  1. Make sure your firewall is activated and that all the software for it is up to date.
  2. Make sure you change the default password on your Wi-Fi network. If we set up your network, we gave you a unique password – one that’s long.
  3. If you are not sure about the security of your network or firewall, you can power down your computer, but the downside to that is that you’ll miss the legitimate updates (which typically include security patches) that come in overnight.
  4. If you install a camera system in your house to monitor selected rooms, change the password for the system, too. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s something a lot of people forget to do. Even the most incompetent hacker can get the default password for any system, so just change it and make it a strong one.

In most cases, networks are infiltrated because people don’t have them secured, and to be honest, having a Peeping Tom see you in your underwear might be the least of your problems. If somebody can hack into your computer’s camera or into your room-monitoring cameras, they likely have gotten into your computer and all the sensitive information you have stored there.

On the flip side, having internal and external cameras – and a system such as Ring to monitor your doors when someone rings your bell – can be a strong deterrent to crime. With all of the secure ways to use the Internet and mobile devices, you can monitor everything about your home from wherever you can connect to the Internet.

We think using firewalls and other technology to secure your cameras works a lot better than a roll of electrical tape. We can help you configure all of the software on your in-home systems and mobile devices to make sure you keep out prying eyes. Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to make sure your cameras are secure.

iPhone 7 and New Product Evolution

I have my new iPhone 7 – without the headphone jack. You know what? I have computers without built-in CD/ROM drives, and automotive entertainment systems don’t have CD players either. Get used to more with less because device makers are under constant pressure to provide more features and capabilities in the smallest possible package.

By removing the jack, Apple has freed up more room for other bells and whistles, such as the better camera system. If you’re one of those people who takes a lot of photos or video with your iPhone, that’s likely to be more important to you than the headphone jack.

Removing the jack, by the way, doesn’t mean Apple has eliminated headphones. You’ll just have to go wireless, which more and more of us are doing anyway. Just about everyone has a Bluetooth connection in their cars, for example, or a Bluetooth headset. For those who still plug in headphones or headsets, it’s just a change you’ll need to get used to.

We can look at a couple of developments to put technological evolution into context. Apple was the first computer maker to eliminate internal CD/ROM drives from its units. That allowed them to make their computers lighter and smaller. If you carry the development forward, across a number of platforms, you can easily see why tablets are replacing laptops for many people.

Tablets don’t have to hold built-in hard drives. By using either cellular or Wi-Fi networks, they connect to the Cloud, where users can access application programs and data. Continually evolving software development gives users a great deal of computing capability for mobile platforms, and you generally have the choice of using a lightweight, portable keyboard or using an onscreen keyboard and swipes to do your work or find the information you seek. In some cases, voice technology is making the keyboard obsolete.

In more technologically advanced cars, you don’t find CD players – which, by the way, replaced cassette tape players many years ago. Who needs either one of them? With Bluetooth technology, you can connect your playlist from your phone or tablet to the car’s sound system. And when you get out of the car, just switch to your Bluetooth headset and never a miss a beat.

Technology is changing the way we do business, too. For example, a kitchen designer can give a couple virtual reality goggles and let them view a potential kitchen as though they are standing in the room. From a computer, the designer can change configurations or colors of cabinets and countertops.

For some, change is intimidating and confusing. We can help you be more comfortable with selecting new technology and learning how to use the features you need or want. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up a time.