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Protect Your Security

Along with avoiding shopping scams, you should take special precautions to protect the security of your financial information and access to your computer – as an individual and a business. This is no time to let your guard down. You know the drill for protection, but here’s a short refresher course.


Be really careful about email. That’s good advice at any time, but it’s especially important at this time of the year. Because of all the ways unscrupulous people have to hijack email addresses, a message from a name you know and trust might be from a scammer.

A new type of malware known as Cryptolocker is being spread by email. It appears to be coming from shippers, such as UPS or FedEx, and it targets personal and professional computers. The virus quickly scrambles or encrypts your data and can lock up your computer. The sender does offer to unlock your computer and restore your data if you pay a ransom. But there are no guarantees that the virus will be removed and that you will get all files back.

If you have your data backed up, we can clean out the virus and restore your files.

Trust your instincts on emails. If the name and email address look right, you still may be getting a bogus email. Look at the subject line. Do you normally get messages like this from the sender? Are there grammatical errors or syntax issues you don’t normally see in messages from the sender? Is there an attachment along with other things that don’t seem right?

If you have a problem with your answers to any of the questions in the paragraph, your instinct likely will be delete the email. Instead of responding it or acting on it, you can send a new email to the sender and ask if they sent you the email in question.

You also may be part of an email “phishing” campaign. Just in case you haven’t come across the term, phishing is a way for scammers to troll using fake or malicious websites and email addresses to get you to sign up for something that isn’t real or that is very expensive. Phishers can also use your response to get access to your computer and either mess it up or steal valuable information – or both.

Phishers generally use an identity related to a financial institution or services organization, such as a bank or PayPal. Two tipoffs that it’s a phishing campaign are: 1.) a domain name that looks similar to a well-known domain but is not the same as an official name and 2.) bad syntax in the subject line, generally a string of words that most native English speakers would not use.

Phishing campaigns rely on busy people not reading the message and its identification info carefully and just clicking through or responding. If you’re not sure about the legitimacy of a link in an email address, you can hover your mouse over it, and it should give you the origin of the link.

If you think you may have a problem with a bank, merchant or other organization, find their customer service information independently of the email and make a telephone call.

Online Purchases

When you buy online, make sure the webpages on which you are giving your credit card information and shipping address are secure. The best indication of security is that the pages will have addresses that start with or The “s” in “https” stands for secure. The address is usually accompanied by a small gold padlock icon.

If you don’t see a sign of security but absolutely must buy from that site, you might be best to make a phone call. There can be a number of legitimate reasons for security not displaying, but make sure the company knows this is a problem for you. They may need to fix something or make some other changes.

Above all, remember that it’s your money. Don’t let anybody make you feel uncomfortable about spending it.

Additional Protection

You should have up-to-date anti-virus and malware-protection software installed on your computer, and it should all be running in the background. Your network should be behind a firewall, and that software should be up to date and running.

You can set up most protection software to run scans and updates automatically, and you can set them for various levels of protection.  We can help you select the best systems for your needs and we can help you install them and manage them. Just send us an email request or call – 973-433-6676. No matter what you select and run, always remember that common sense and an occasional deep breath will always enhance your security.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.