As school, socializing and many aspects of life have moved online this year, it’s more important than ever that you protect your digital devices and steer clear of cybercriminals.
So during National Cyber Security Awareness Month, observed each October, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and partner agencies remind you to do your part and #BeCyberSmart all year long.
Now in its 17th year, NCSAM is a government and private sector partnership that raises awareness about cybersecurity and stresses the collective effort required to stop cyber crimes, online thefts and scams.
As the premier cyber investigative agency, the FBI works to keep you safe online, but you should follow the cyber safety tips below to help protect yourself and your family. If you do become a victim, contact us to report online crime.
Cyber safety tips
— Keep software systems up to date and use a good anti-virus program.
— Examine the email address and URLs in all correspondence. Scammers often mimic a legitimate site or email address by using a slight variation in spelling.
— If an unsolicited text message, email or phone call asks you to update, check or verify your account information, do not follow the link provided in the message itself or call the phone numbers provided in the message. Go to the company’s website to log into your account or call the phone number listed on the official website to see if something does, in fact, need your attention.
— Do not open any attachments unless you are expecting the file, document or invoice and have verified the sender’s email address.
— Scrutinize all electronic requests for a payment or transfer of funds.
— Be extra suspicious of any message that urges immediate action.
— Confirm requests for wire transfers or payment in person or over the phone as part of a two-factor authentication process. Do not verify these requests using the phone number listed in the request for payment.
How to protect your computer
The same advice parents might deliver to young drivers on their first solo journey applies to everyone who wants to navigate safely online. A special agent in our Cyber Division offered the following:
— “Don’t drive in bad neighborhoods.”
— “If you don’t lock your car, it’s vulnerable; if you don’t secure your computer, it’s vulnerable.”
— “Reduce your vulnerability, and you reduce the threat.”
Below are some key steps to protecting your computer from intrusion:
— Keep your firewall turned on. A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to gain access to crash it, delete information or even steal passwords or other sensitive information.
— Install or update your antivirus software. Antivirus software is designed to prevent malicious software programs from embedding on your computer. If it detects malicious code, like a virus or a worm, it works to disarm or remove it. Viruses can infect computers without users’ knowledge.
— Install or update your antispyware technology. Spyware is just what it sounds like — software that is surreptitiously installed on your computer to let others peer into your activities on the computer. Some spyware collects information about you without your consent or produces unwanted pop-up ads on your web browser. Be wary of ads on the Internet offering downloadable antispyware — in some cases these products may be fake and may actually contain spyware or other malicious code. It’s like buying groceries — shop where you trust.
— Keep your operating system up-to-date. Computer operating systems are periodically updated to stay in tune with technology requirements and to fix security holes. Install the updates to ensure your computer has the latest protection.
For more online safety tips, visit https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/on-the-internet.
(Editor’s note: This article was originally published by the FBI and has been abridged.)