Big security headlines in the news may leave you feeling a little vulnerable. Security just doesn’t mean the same thing coming from a technology company. If the big names with entire teams of security personnel get hacked, could you be next? Information is a commodity, and it is in your best interest to protect yours. Read on for an overview of a few terms you’ve heard in the headlines and how to keep from finding your information compromised.
A few definitions:
- Phishing. Emails impersonating a valid company or individual in order to get people to reveal personally identifiable information. Spear-phishing uses highly personalized emails sent to individual well-researched targets. Variations include “vishing” (using a caller/robocaller over the phone) and “smishing” (using text messages).
- Email account takeover. When a criminal gains access to a legitimate user’s email account. This can be through data breaches or phishing scams.
- Ransomware. Malware (bad software) that encrypts files and documents on your PC or network. You can pick it up through clicking on a link or opening an attachment. These can be from spam senders or picked up online by clicking links that seem to be genuine (such as a COVID map or cute meme), but carry a hidden load. Attackers then charge a ransom for you to buy your data back. Lately, criminals using ransomware have been known to copy your files first so even if they restore your access, they have a copy to use for other purposes.
How to reduce your overall risk:
- Endpoint protection. This used to be called your antivirus and antimalware, but next generation protection uses artificial intelligence to protect your endpoints beyond those definitions. Whatever endpoint protection you use, make sure it is reputable, currently licensed, and regularly updated.
- Ditch outdated programs. They can be as major as an operating system (Windows 10), as minor as an app on your phone, or anywhere between. Any piece of programming that is not supported by the programmer isn’t getting patches and updates that close known security holes. Secure your system by keeping it up to date.
- Use great password hygiene. Make sure you use strong passwords that are unique to each sign in. Enable multifactor authentication wherever you can. Don’t share passwords, leave them lying around, or store them on your computer in an unencrypted file. Check out last month’s article on password management for information on services that help generate and secure your passwords.
- Be aware when checking your email. Check the email address and sender to make sure they match and are error-free. Don’t open emails from untrusted sources and certainly don’t click on any link they contain if curiosity should get the better of you. If an email is from a contact but seems suspicious, give that person a call to ensure it’s from them.
- Know your personally identifiable information and guard it. What is considered PII? Any bit of information that may help a criminal identify you or compromise your accounts. This includes old standbys like your name, SSN, mother’s maiden name, bank account, and passwords. In this era of “Forgot Password” buttons, it also extends to your first pet, favorite teacher, and the model of the first car you owned. (Remember this next time a social media quiz shows up on your feed.)
For more information specific to Nonprofits, you can download The Non-Profit’s Guide to Cyber Security here.
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