(AIr1 Closer Look) – You scroll social media and spot spam. Emails shout ‘click here!’ from an inbox full of tricks. Modern cybercriminals commit considerable time and talent to hacking your life. “Every person, every business has something a cyber bad guy would want,” says Darren Mott, cybersecurity expert and host of The CyburGuy podcast. As a retired FBI agent, Mott warns that believing that is the first step to avoiding scams. “They are looking to gain from our naivete online, human error and things like that.” The answer? Be cybersmart.
”If you have a gut feeling, if you have an instinct that something isn’t right here – please listen to that,” urges Gavina Avila, Community Connection Specialist for the Better Business Bureau. She suggests you pause and think – pause when you receive a phone call, text or email that you did not expect. “One that I see on both email and text messages is ‘your Bank of America account has some issues -- click here to log in,” which gives hackers direct access to your money. “It’s things like that can get the not-cautious individual into trouble and falling victim to these scams.” Avila also warns against extra links in web searches. “I’ll go to website for a new recipe and there are all these pop-ups and a little video that plays in the bottom corner – you can click on something by accident! Do not fall victim to these easily accessible alternative websites.”
The chief way a hacker gets into a computer network is to convince you – or one of your coworkers -- or employees – to open an infected link or email attachment. A full “90% of the cases I worked at the FBI were due to this kind of social engineering or phishing,” says Mott, adding that senior citizens are their favorite targets. Callers, texters or emailers will pose as a grandchild who needs money fast. “It happened to my mother – she thought my son had called her – so she called me – and I told her yeah, it’s a scam.” Another favorite phish is the ‘tech support’ email claiming your credit card was charged for something like Norton anti-virus software or an Amazon package. Using the ruse to rouse you to click or call, “the scammer on the other end will just say, ‘oh I can take care of that, just need you to download this app.’ The app becomes a remote log-in to steal passwords from your computer.”
You may find the sheer determination of online fraudsters discouraging, but Avila and Mott emphasize your power of prevention.
“Multi-factor authentication and strong passwords – meaning 13 characters or more – will eliminate a lot of this problem,” Mott explains. Avila advises even the smallest mom n’pop businesses to invest in cybersecurity like the insurance they buy for company vehicles." There is no industry in the world that is not a target of cyber actors,” adds Mott, noting that healthcare and local school systems have become some of the more recent victims of ransomware. Multi-factor, also called 2-factor authentication adds an extra block to infection. “A lot of companies do not enable that, and it makes it very easy for bad guys who have stolen credentials they got from the darkweb to get into a company network.”
“We do give a lot of education on how to protect you information – but ultimately it’s up to you to do your due diligence and not just believe everything that you see and click everything that pops up. You do have to walk with caution as someone who’s engaged with the online world.”