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COVID-19: Staying Safe Online While Staying Home

Posted in CyberSec News

The COVID-19 virus currently plaguing the country and closing down businesses is prime time for hackers and malicious actors who want to steal your information. If you’re working from home, you may have fewer security features in place than when you do at the office. If your kids are doing schoolwork at home as well, the same applies.

It’s important to learn how to recognize scams, and take as many measures as possible to protect you and your family while staying at home. The coronavirus pandemic has seen the rise of fake coronavirus websites, fake trackers that download malicious files to your computer, and even fake applications that harvest your personal information. Here are some of my best tips to protect yourself against cyber crime.

Scams

In these times when people are scared, scammers take advantage. As you usually should, be aware of strangers who ask for personal information. If you get a text “from your bank”, don’t reply or click on any links provided unless you verify by calling the bank directly. Use the bank’s website or app to find the correct support numbers, because you shouldn’t fully trust any texts or emails. Hackers are constantly trying to impersonate your bank so they can steal your login information, and consequently your money!

In general, pay attention to the sender address in any email that requests for you to click on a link or enter any sensitive information, and also take a close look at the exact URL address you access. When in doubt, call the organization that it claims to be from.

WiFi

If your home WiFi is not password protected, you are openly inviting stranger to connect to your home network. Hackers can access your own computer if you’re not careful. Even if it’s inconvenient, password protect your WiFi with at least WPA2 Personal encryption, and make it a secure password. Weak WiFi passwords are about as secure as no password. (More on secure passwords below).

Video Conferencing

Always keep your webcam cover on except when actually in use. Webcam hacking happens. If you have an external webcam, keep it unplugged while not in use.

Be wary about publicly sharing video conferencing or meeting links. It is best practice to have any unknown members in a video conference announce who they are when they enter the virtual meeting room.

Be sure to read the privacy policies of any video conferencing service. As a general rule of thumb, don’t do anything on webcam that you wouldn’t want to be publicly available.

Passwords

I cannot emphasize this enough: USE STRONG PASSWORDS. Weak passwords can be cracked within seconds. It is important to use a strong password to prevent someone from intercepting, and cracking it. Here is a good resource to evaluate your password strength: How Secure Is My Password? 

Here’s a hint for generating a strong password: Consider using a “passphrase”. Random passphrases provide the best combination of memorability and security. Learn more at useapassphrase.com.

If you store your personal account passwords in your Google Chrome browser (which you shouldn’t), Google has a password checkup feature to help you determine what accounts need securing. It will show you how many duplicate, weak, or compromised passwords you may be using: Google Password Checkup.

If you want to take password security seriously, while still being manageable, consider using a paid password manager, like Last Pass or 1Password.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Also known as MFA or 2FA, multifactor authentication refers to a security system that requires more than one method of authentication from independent categories of credentials to verify the user’s identity for a login or other transaction.

ALL accounts should be protected with 2FA. Email, Paypal, ebanking, Instagram, Facebook, even Netflix. If you reuse passwords, a hacker will be able to crack one and then login to ALL your accounts. 

By using 2FA, a hacker would not be able to login to that account if they have the password without also having the 2nd factor.

Company VPNs

If you can use a VPN provided to you by your company, use it! The last thing you want is to compromise your work files due to having an insecure home network. Make sure to check with y our IT support about whether you have a VPN and how to access it.

Personal VPNs

Personal VPNs are becoming more commonplace and more affordable. For a few bucks a month, you can purchase your own personal VPN. This is highly recommended if you frequent coffee shops or other places with free and open WiFi. Hackers can easily see what information you are sending over the Internet through unprotected WiFi. Consider using an option like NordVPN.

Mobile VPN

1.1.1.1  is a free mobile app from CloudFlare that protects your traffic. 1.1.1.1 with WARP replaces the connection between your phone and the Internet with a modern, optimized, protocol. 

More Cyber Security Resources

  • staysafeonline.org
  • cybersmart.org
  • connectsafely.org
  • sos.fbi.gov
  • secureflorida.org
  • thefc2.org
  • safeandsecureonline.org
  • netsmarts.org
  • fosi.org
  • ikeepsafe.org

Protect Your Kids Online

Kids can play their way to being Internet Awesome with Interland, an online adventure that puts the key lessons of digital safety into hands-on practice with four challenging games. Developed by Google at beinternetawesome.withgoogle.com.

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