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Simple Steps for Staying Safe Online

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Be suspicious.  Use unique passwords.  Keep your computer updated. 
Those are common words of advice for anyone who uses their computer online.

As Foster and Motley recognizes October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it’s a good time for all of us to be aware of technology and the consequences if we don’t protect our personal information from online scammers.  

Watch out for SPAM and Phishing Attempts

What is SPAM?
SPAM or Junk email are unsolicited bulk e-mail messages or any email messages unwanted or unrequested by the recipient. Spam messages are mostly commercial advertising, although chain letters, political mailings and other forms of non-commercial mailings are often included under the same categorization. A large portion of spam has also been found to be comprised of ads for products of dubious quality and services of questionable legality.  Sometimes the spammer poses as someone affiliated with a legitimate organization. 

How can you stop it?
Some Junk mail can be stopped by simply unsubscribing. If you have recently created an account with a company or web site and are now receiving email from them, look for an “unsubscribe” section in the email footer. If there is no “unsubscribe” section, most email services allow you to flag the email address as “SPAM” which blocks future emails from them.  

What is Phishing?
Phishing attacks are designed to steal your personal identity information and financial account credentials.  Some phishing attacks employ social-engineering schemes which use spoofed emails to lead consumers to counterfeit websites.  These websites are designed to trick recipients into divulging financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames, passwords, and social security numbers.  Phishers often convince recipients to respond to their emails by hijacking brand names of banks, e-retailers, and credit card companies.

Another common phishing attack attempts to trick the victim into either opening a malicious file attachment or clicking a link that downloads and installs malware that could compromise your computer or home
network. 

See KnowBe4’s Social Engineering Red Flags for tips on spotting phishing emails that might be coming into your mailbox.

How can you protect against phishing?
Most malicious emails are action-based – they require you click on a link to activate them. So, before you open that unexpected email form Google or Facebook with an alarming subject line such as “Problem with Your Account,” treat it with  suspicion. 

Think Before You Click.  Do not click on the links or attachment to figure out the problem. Instead, log in directly to your account using a bookmarked link or by typing the address of the site into the browser. You can then check any purported problems directly on your account and know you’re doing so safely.

Keeping Safe Online
Protect your Email Account

Your email account is the key to your online accounts. Keep it safe. Skip the free email accounts from internet providers such as Comcast or Spectrum. Instead, use a service like Google Gmail or Microsoft Outlook which feature SPAM filtering, dedicated mobile apps, multifactor authentication and password change or failed login alerts. Plus, there’s the added convenience of not changing your email address in the event you switch internet providers. 

Make sure you use a strong, unique password.  A strong password these days does not necessarily mean complex. Recent security research suggests that a long, but easy to remember passphrase is better than a shorter, complex password.

Protect Your Online Accounts

Use strong, unique passwords for your most important accounts – banking, investments, online shopping, or social media accounts.  For each account, ask yourself: what would happen your password was stolen could they steal my identity?  If the answer is Yes, protect that account with all means available.

Never, ever give your password to anyone via email or on the phone.  Use a password manager, preferably one that works with both your computer and mobile device. Reputable options include LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password – most offer free trials so you can try before you buy.

On mobile devices, be sure to use a 6-digit password and finger print authentication. Enable “Find My Phone” features and know how to remotely erase your phone if lost or stolen.

For more information about protecting your accounts online see Lock Down Your Login.

How Foster & Motley Protects Your Data

 Cyber security is paramount in maintaining the safekeeping of your information.  We conduct frequent security awareness training sessions for our employees to keep them up-to-date on the latest attacks.  Our tech team sends out “faux” phishing tests to employees to keep them on their toes in identifying threats.  We also employ a variety of best practices and technology tools designed to protect Foster & Motley’s network, our business systems, and data. 

In the next few months, we will be offering webinar-based personal security training for clients designed to help you be safe and protect your identity online.   

Remember ... Think Before You Click!