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Oct 27, 2020

Ask Our Cyber Security Team: Staying Safe Online


Understand Cyber Security to Protect Yourself from Cyber Criminals

We constantly turn to technology and the internet to service different needs. From working from home, to socializing with our friends and family members, many of us spend a decent portion of our lives online. While technology comes with its obvious conveniences, its usage also comes with risks. To better understand the importance of cyber security and how individuals can protect themselves online, we spoke with the Cyber Security Team at NYCM Insurance. Read on to learn more:

 

What is Cyber Security?

Cyber Security is the practice of defending electronic devices and systems from hackers and harmful attacks. Cyber Security can be carried out on a personal level and also on a broader organizational level.

 

Why is Cyber Security Important?

While you may have heard the term “cyber security” thrown around a lot, you may also be wondering why it is important. In speaking with NYCM Insurance’s Cyber Security Team they put it in basic terms, “By protecting your electronic devices and your data, you’re essentially protecting your identity.” They went on to explain that the end game for cyber criminals is stealing personal information, compromising your system to steal a victim’s identity or launch further attacks.

 

How Do Cyber Criminals Obtain Personal Information?

Cyber criminals use a variety of methods to trick people into giving away private information including strategic attacks carried out over email and over the phone. Two of the most common tactics used by hackers include phishing and spoofing.

 

What is Phishing?

Phishing is one of the most popular strategies used by cybercriminals to fraudulently obtain personal and private information such as bank or credit card numbers and passwords. Phishing is often carried out over email and is designed to trick users into divulging private information. Phishing is serious as it can lead to financial loss or identify theft.

 

What is Spoofing?

Spoofing describes any hacking attempt in which the hacker has disguised themselves as a trusted person or source. NYCM Insurance’s Cyber Security Team stated, “Phishing and spoofing go hand in hand -- a phishing email could be categorized as a spoof if it looks like it is coming from someone you know. This can be true when dealing with either email or phone calls.” Because spoofing attempts appear to be coming from a trusted source, they explained that cyber criminals have “a higher success rate” when utilizing this hacking strategy over others.  

 

How to Recognize Phishing and Protect Yourself from Hackers

The best way to protect yourself against email hacking is by learning how to identify a phishing attempt. Here are some ways you can evaluate an email to identify whether it’s real or coming from a hacker:

 

       Ask Yourself, “Is This Too Good to Be True?” - As much as we’d all like to open our email up to find out we’ve just won the lottery or a dream vacation to Hawaii, the simple truth is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Hackers use bold, attention-grabbing email headlines to excite and lure you into their scams. If a subject line reads too good to be true, delete it.

       Be Skeptical of Hyperlinks - A common tactic used by hackers is enticing users to click on dangerous hyperlinks. Before clicking, hover over the link and check that it is going to a legitimate website. Tip-offs that the hyperlink may be dangerous include misspellings or long strings of characters at the end of the link. When in doubt, don’t click.

       Consider Attachments - If you receive an attachment in an email that is either unexpected or seems suspicious, exercise caution and avoid clicking to download. Attachments sent by hackers can contain malware.

       Be Mindful of Urgency - If an email is encouraging you to act in haste (“Hurry, or we’ll cancel your account!”), then it could be a phishing attempt. Instead of acting upon the email, contact the source directly.

       Trust Your Gut - There is much to be said of intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. When dealing with electronic communications or conversations that are seeking personal information, it is always best to err on the side of caution and end the correspondence before divulging information.

 

How to Protect Yourself From Fraudulent Calls

       Never answer a call from an unknown number.

       Take caller ID at face value; scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID.

       If you do pick up and recognize that it is a spam call, hang up immediately.

       Do not communicate private or sensitive information over the phone. If the person (or recording) claims to be from a trusted company, hang up and call the company directly.

       Do not send money if a caller tells you to wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card.

       Be wary of callers claiming that you’ve won a prize or vacation package and do not give in to pressure to take immediate action.

       If a caller starts a call asking, “Can you hear me?” hang up immediately. This is a common tactic designed by scammers to record you saying “yes” - a recording they will then use as proof that you agreed to a purchase or credit card charge.

       Independently research business opportunities, charities, or travel packages that the caller offers.

       Use your voicemail to screen calls - legitimate callers will be more likely to leave a message, most spammers will not.


More Important Than Ever

In 2020, many of us saw a change in lifestyle onset by the appearance and spread of COVID-19. More of us started working from home and using the digital space as a place to connect socially and seek entertainment. With the rise of digital usage has also come the rise of malicious digital attacks.

 

“Because of COVID-19, people have started using technologies differently and more frequently,” the Cyber Security Team explained. “That opens up more opportunity for phishing.”

 

They added that, “Hackers play on people’s want to be charitable during times of crisis. For example, disguising dangerous links in the form of calls to action to donate to charitable organizations.”

 

Be Mindful of Social Media, Too

Many of us are accustomed to using social media as part of our everyday lives - it’s how we stay in touch with family members and friends, find fun new crafts to try and figure out what we’re making for dinner. But the social media realm is where precautions should be taken.

 

The Cyber Security Team stated, “Every time you put an app on your phone, there are privacy rights to consider. For example, if an app gets compromised, your data is also compromised. This could lead to having your identity stolen and possibly even the identities of your contacts stolen. Even taking a photo of a password is hazardous.”

 

The Cyber Security Team advised against posting content to social media while you’re away on vacation or marking that you’ve checked in at a location other than your home - to do so signals to the public that your home is currently vacant and primed for theft or vandalism. They also advised against partaking in social games where participants publish personal information such as their birth month or the street they grew up on - as hackers could potentially use these pieces of information to guess security questions.

 

“It is challenging - we want to share and interact digitally but it’s important to think about the repercussions of the information we’re publishing,” the Cyber Security Team empathized. “More than anything, it’s about being aware of what you post and the information that can be gleaned from it. Before posting anything, ask yourself if and how it can be used to leverage your identity.”




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