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Tips to Protect Yourself from Cybercriminals

by Kaspersky Labs | Sep 23, 2016
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We know that new technology means new risks and new ways for bad actors to try and compromise your security and steal your information. To help you stay protected, here are some tips for how you can beef up your email and mobile security.

Spam and Phishing Scams

Spam is a form of electronic junk mail sent en masse to users. While annoying in its own right, it can potentially be very dangerous if part of a larger phishing scam. Phishing scams are a form of cybercrime that involves defrauding users by acting as legitimate companies or organizations in order to obtain sensitive information such as passwords and login credentials.

Spam is the electronic equivalent of the “junk mail” that arrives on your doormat or in your postbox. However, spam is more than just annoying. It can be dangerous, especially if it’s part of a phishing scam.

Spam emails are sent out in mass quantities by spammers and cybercriminals that are looking to do one or more of the following:

  • Make money from the small percentage of recipients that actually respond to the message
  • Run phishing scams in order to obtain passwords, credit card numbers, bank account details, and more
  • Spread malicious code onto recipients’ computers

How to protect yourself against spam email and phishing

Set up multiple email addresses. It’s a good idea to have at least two email addresses, one public and one private. Your private email address should only be used for personal correspondence. Because spammers build lists of possible email addresses, by using combinations of obvious names, words, and numbers, you should try to make this address difficult for a spammer to guess. Your private address should not simply be your first and last name – and you should protect the address by doing the following:

  • Never publish your private email address on publicly accessible online resources.
  • If you must publish your private address electronically, try to mask it in order to avoid having the address picked up by spammers. For example, “Joe.Smith@yahoo.com” is an easy address for spammers to find. Try writing it as “Joe-dot-Smith-at-yahoo.com” instead.
  • When you need to publish your private address on a website, it’s safer to do this as a graphics file rather than as a link.
  • If your private address is discovered by spammers—you should change it. Although this may be inconvenient, changing your email address will help you to avoid spam.

You should use your public email address when you need to register on public forums and in chat rooms, or to subscribe to mailing lists and other Internet services. The following tips will also help you to reduce the volume of spam you receive via your public email address:

  • Treat your public address as a temporary address. The chances are high that spammers will rapidly get hold of your public address, especially if it is frequently being used on the Internet.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your public email address quite often.
  • Consider using a number of public addresses. That way you’ll have a better chance of tracing which services may be selling your address to spammers.

Never respond to any spam. Most spammers verify receipt and log responses. The more you respond, the more spam you’re likely to receive.

Think before you click ‘unsubscribe’. Spammers send fake unsubscribe letters, in an attempt to collect active email addresses. If you click “unsubscribe” in one of these letters, it may simply increase the amount of spam you receive. Do not click on “unsubscribe” links in emails that come from unknown sources.

Keep your browser updated. Make sure that you use the latest version of your web browser and that all of the latest Internet security patches have been applied.

Use anti-spam filters. Only open email accounts with providers that include spam filtering.

Smartphone Security

Smartphones and other mobile devices can be vulnerable to cyberattacks and other threats, but following a few common sense security tips can help keep your device safe. Today’s smartphones are capable of doing so much more than the mobile phones of a few years ago – but this greatly extended range of capabilities has also seen the introduction of some new security risks.

Because we’re using our phones for a much wider range of activities, from social networking to online shopping, banking, and surfing the web, we all need to take sensible precautions to ensure our phones and our information are safe from malware attacks and cybercriminals.

Security tips for safer smartphone use

Here are some useful tips from Kaspersky Lab’s team of Internet security experts:

Keep it locked. Make sure your phone’s screen lock is on at all times so there’s less at risk if your phone falls into the hands of a cybercriminal.

Encrypt your sensitive information. If your phone includes data encryption features, make sure you use them. In the event of your phone being stolen, criminals will not be able to access the personal information that’s stored on your phone—if that information has already been encrypted.

Monitor how apps behave on your phone. Be aware of permission access/requests from applications running on your phone. It’s especially important to do this for Android smartphones.

Protect your phone and your data. Many users that wouldn’t ever consider running a laptop, PC, or Mac computer without anti-malware software forget that today’s smartphones are powerful computers and they are vulnerable to the same risks. Make sure you use a reputable anti-malware program on all of your mobile devices and ensure the antivirus databases are regularly updated.

Be aware of the risks of jailbreaking/rooting. Although it might be tempting to root or jailbreak your phone, in order to access specific apps or services, this will strip away the security. To help keep your phone and your data secure don’t root or jailbreak your phone.

Switch off Bluetooth when you can. If you’re not using your Bluetooth connection, it’s a great idea to switch it off. That way, you’ll make your phone less vulnerable to cyberattack and you’ll reduce the drain on your phone’s battery.

Choose a smartphone security solution with anti-theft features. Some smartphone security products include a range of anti-theft features that give you remote access to your lost or stolen phone—so you can lock the phone, wipe data from it, and find its location.

Reprinted with permission of Kaspersky Lab, one of the world’s fasting-growing cybersecurity companies.

This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of The WashingtonCPA magazine.

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