Cyber-attacks, viruses and scams have been in the news quite a bit lately. We’ve all heard the stories to exercise caution and be wary of email attachments. Heck, even I’ve already written a story this year about viruses. So why another article so soon? Unfortunately, there are some trends that have re-emerged on scene and become a prevalent concern for home users and businesses alike. These trends are coming in the form of ransomware, phone and banner ad scams, encryption viruses, and cyber-attacks.
Is it a Scam or Legit?
Often when your phone rings it is a company wanting to sell you something or give you information and it can be difficult to determine legit companies from the scammers. So how can you tell who is scamming you, especially when concerning your computer? The goal of scam callers are to confuse or intimidate you into giving them what they want, access to your machine or personal information. They often call and say things like your computer is infected, there is an issue with your server, the IP address is compromised, or a variety of other issues and they will often request access to your machine. Whatever you do, don’t allow them access! Keep in mind most companies, like Microsoft, will never contact you. If you have signed up for a protection with a company, such as antivirus protection, don’t give an unrequested caller access to your computer, even if they seem legit. If you are contacted simply request to follow up with them. Get the information you were provided when you signed up and contact the company in this method. If the original phone call was legit, the company should be able to assist you this way, if the call was not legit then you’ve saved yourself a world of heartache.
Beware of Attachments!
Encryption viruses have been around for a while but lately there has been quite a bit more action in attempts to encrypt your computer. The most common method of attack has been through email. Be very careful of email attachments, as the encryption virus is often sent as an attachment. If you get an “invoice” or “statement” as an attachment, even from a familiar source, disregard the email. Unsure if you owe a balance? Go directly to the source, log onto your account or contact the company directly using the information on a bill or on their website to inquire on your account. This might take a little more time but it can certainly save you some pain of losing your data.
Locked Up? Quick Tips
Another version of a virus that is coming through is a ransomware that comes in the form of a popup. No matter what, DO NOT CALL THE NUMBER!!! In the event of a popup that locks up your computer here’s what you do:· Hit Alt+F4 keys together to exit out of the screen.· If Alt+F4 doesn’t work don’t unplug your computer! Instead press the power button, if it shuts down, perfect, just boot it back up like normal once your computer has shut down.· If pressing the power button doesn’t work then try a hard shutdown. To do this just hold the power button down until the computer eventually shuts off. Then turn on your computer like normal.· Once you have rebooted your computer and closed out of the popup screen be sure to do a full virus scan to be sure you don’t have an infection.
I have an antivirus so I’m set…right?
Most of us have an antivirus program running on our computers but the common misconception is that if you have an antivirus your computer can’t get infected. That is simply not true. Just remember, paid or free, antivirus programs are not perfect and ultimately it is up to you, the user to be aware of what you are allowing onto your computer. Opening email attachments, clicking on banner ads, downloading programs without awareness of what are downloading, and installing extra toolbars (i.e. ask toolbar) are all ways of getting viruses. Not sure if you have a virus? There are some things to watch for. If your computer slows down, you’re getting popup windows, or something just seems off these are good indicators that something is wrong with your computer and possibly has a virus. Be sure to get your computer checked by a local computer repair store is always a good idea.
Cyber Attacks. How do I protect myself?
Cyber-attacks have been in the news lately and companies are continuously under attack by cyber-attacks in attempts to gain information. Taking a little time to protect yourself is a great way to prevent yourself from falling victim to these cyber-attacks.·
- Monitor your credit card statements. It is, of course, a good idea to review your monthly statements for fraudulent activity but doing a review more often is a good idea. It is recommended to take one day a week to review your account for any fraudulent activity. Remember the longer you take to review your account, the longer it will take for you to catch any questionable activity. If anything stands out as questionable, investigate this immediately to determine if it was a one of your purchases.·
- Sign up for real-time alerts with your bank and credit cards. If you aren’t sure of the security features your bank or credit card company has to offer be sure to contact them. Many banks actually offer services to protect your accounts including real time alerts.·
- Keep your private information private. Be careful as to what information you are giving out to unsolicited callers. The more you tell them, the more they know about you. Never provide passwords or personal information to unsolicited callers. When looking at new websites, look for the closed lock symbol at the bottom right of the screen to ensure the sites security.·
- Routinely change passwords and make them strong. A good idea is to change your password every ninety days. Avoid using passwords that have your birthday, address, or Social Security number. Be creative with your passwords and make them strong using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that have no connection to you or your family.·
- Subscribe to identity protection. Signing up for an identity protection service is good idea to keep your information secure. There are many identity protection companies who will monitor your information like, credit cards, social security number, and other information for a fee. A little insurance for peace of mind never hurts.
Save, save often, save in many places!
It is a good idea to back-up your files, photos, and documents regularly. Using cloud storage, an external hard drive, and flash drives are different ways to save your information. This safeguards your information from getting lost. If saving to an external hard drive or flash drive, do not leave it plugged into your computer all the time. If you get the encryption virus on your computer it will get onto external drive if it is connected and which will render your backup useless. Only plug in your external drive when you are ready to run a back-up of your computer.
I think I might have a computer virus. Now what?
There are times that you will run into infection or a scammer. If you aren’t sure of what to do it never hurts to get your computer checked out by a local computer repair shop like CompuTime. The technicians can check your hardware as well as run a scan for viruses when you bring your computer in for a check-up. As always, caution is key to protecting yourself from scammers and fraud. Be aware and beware of anything that seems not quite right, don’t be afraid to say no to callers and to question activity on your account. Safety and caution when using a computer and safeguarding your privacy are always key in keeping yourself and your computer safe.