Double Check, Triple Check

In times of crisis, cybercriminals know how to take advantage of our generosity with online scams. They come in all shapes and forms. You need to double check and triple check every email you get requesting money or action, and you need to do the same for every link you have an impulse to click.

At this point, I think we’re all sophisticated and careful enough to take a close look at the emails we get. We know to hover over a name we know to see the email address from where the message was sent. You know, for example, that you likely won’t get an email from me generated from a service in Russia – and you know to call me to see if I really did send you an email from a Russian address. You’ve got to step up your vigilance. Don’t be afraid to question anything – and never open an email or click a link in an email if are not completely sure it’s legit. A cybercriminal can use the link you click or the file you download to get into your computer and hold your data for ransom or steal vital personal or corporate financial data.

This is important because you can expect a lot of emails from people and organizations purporting to be charities to help victims of the Covid-19 crisis and hardship from civil unrest. There are many good, legitimate organizations helping good causes, but there are bad ones, too. While a specific “charity” may not plant a virus or ransomware in your computer, they will get your credit card info (bet they didn’t offer a mailing address to send a check), which they can sell many times over on the dark web.

This goes beyond email. We’re too click happy when it comes to news and entertainment sites, clicking away at any headline or teaser that sparks our interest. In our time of crisis, news sites get our attention, especially if there’s something outrageous regardless of whether it supports our beliefs or not. Aside from whether it’s true and from a reliable news source, it could also be a way for a cybercriminal to hijack your computer. The same goes for pop-ups on less-than-reputable websites.

We’re getting a lot of calls to clean up infected computers, and one incident illustrates the problem. After we cleaned a client’s computer of a problem generated by clicking on a questionable site, the client immediately clicked another piece of clickbait and had an immediately re-infected computer. We all need to use good judgment when we click on something we find – or something sent by a friend.

You can further protect yourself by making you have up-to-date antivirus and malware software installed and running on your computer. We also recommend you regularly check for updates for all your application software and hardware firmware and make sure you install and run them. We can help you with fixing problems and preventing them. Turn off your computers or technology infrastructure if you find something behaving strangely or performing slowly and call us – 973-433-6676. Call us or email us if you need help with selecting, installing or updating antivirus or malware protection software and to set up an automated system to handle software and firmware updates.

Safe Travels, Safe Wi-Fi

It’s getting near spring-break time, and summer vacations will soon follow. You may have seen the reports about wi-fi issues and data security. One of the biggest problems you face is how easy it is to log onto a “fake” wi-fi network – a network that is neither part or your hotel’s system nor secure. But if you pay attention and follow a few simple tips, you can safely stream your favorite content and handle some routine email tasks.

The first and most obvious thing to do is make sure you understand your hotel’s or resort’s log-in information when you check in. Get the proper names of any network that the hotel makes available for you. Then, when you try to log in when you get to your room or sit down at the pool, you can pick out that network from the many that will display when your computers or devices search for the network. Don’t be surprised to see several networks that have spellings or character-and-number sequences that are similar to the networks you were given at check-in.

When you go to log in to the network you’ve selected, you’ll likely be asked for your name and room number. Tip No. 1, don’t enter a correct room number or even a correct name. Misspell your name, if you want. If the network lets you in, then you are not on a legitimate network. If you are denied access with your incorrect info, you should feel confident the network is OK.

Depending on the property’s size and network setup, you may be required to log onto multiple networks. Follow the log-in test for each network. And, most important, make sure everyone in your family or travel group follows that procedure because the breach of one computer or device could compromise everyone in the group.

Also, be aware of network names and connections as you float around. You or one of your family members could inadvertently wind up on an open, unsecured network that can be used to breach your computers or devices to steal information. Tip No. 2, you might want to consider disconnecting from the network when you finish your online session.

Tip No. 3, don’t use a wi-fi network conduct online business, such as credit-card purchases or accessing your bank accounts. You should also avoid wi-fi for logging onto sites related to your health or finances. Instead, use your cellular network. It’s much safer. That may require you to make some additional arrangements with your cellular carrier or to buy and install a SIM card with a data plan for service. However, it’s well worth the time and expense.

Personally, when I travel, I “hotspot” my computer in connection with my cell phone number. It can be expensive (though that’s a relative term), but it removes me from the wi-fi network. So far, hackers have not breached the cellular networks.

Just as a related point, if you are going to depend more on cellular data, make sure you have a plan that will cover your use, and make sure everyone who uses your plan knows its limits. If you’re streaming a lot of video content or gaming, data gets sucked up faster than you can imagine, and charges for exceeding your plan’s limits can be steep.

We can help you prepare for an internet-safe trip or make sure your systems are secure whenever you go remote near your home or office. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment to look at your systems (we can do a lot remotely) and answer your questions.