“Crime is a fact of the human species, a fact of that species alone, but it is above all the secret aspect, impenetrable and hidden. Crime hides, and by far the most terrifying things are those which elude us.” ~ Georges Bataille, French Philosopher (1897-1962)
Question: Is the COVID-19 Pandemic and work-from-home (WFH) trend causing cybercrime to increase? I’m guessing it has; what tips can you offer to protect ourselves?
Answer: While most of us remain focused on containing the virus and making adjustments to our own lives, cybercriminals salivate and view the pandemic as the perfect opportunity to attack online. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, on a daily basis since the onset of the pandemic, they’ve experienced an increase in complaints from an average of approximately one thousand to between three and four thousand.
The WFH trend exited and was gaining popularity before COVID-19 and is easily becoming more prevalent. The flexibility, potential cost-savings and Coronavirus concerns suggest that WFH is here to stay for many individuals. Personally, I’m thrilled to be back in the office although technology did allow us to continue working uninterrupted from home during the most critical phases of the pandemic.
With more people working from home (WFH), the cyberattacks have become specific to target remote users to hack, steal, and install malware. In mid-April, Google reported that they “identified 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19.” The U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC) is aware of our vulnerability as a nation whether it is against our infrastructure or a potential government ransomware issue. Spending on cybersecurity will likely increase as the threat expands. The University of Maryland reported that “Hackers attack every 39 seconds, on average 2,224 times a day.” So, what can you do about it?
#1 Be Aware
Be on alert for Cyber Criminals, they are masterminds of schemes designed to collect personal information to access or steal money, sell someone’s identity on the black market, or commit either fraud or criminal acts with a victim’s identity.
#2 The Best Offense Is A Good Defense
Most identity theft victims have no clue they’ve been compromised. It’s important to pull your credit, at least annually, to make sure there are no specious changes. You can access a free annual report through three official credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian & Trans Union. Each agency allows one free credit report annually.
#3 Practice Password Maintenance
The Better Business Bureau and most professionals recommend frequent password changes. The recommended frequency can range from 30, 60, to 90 days. General guidelines are as follows: at least 8 characters, a mix of upper and lowercase letters, a mixture of letters and numbers, and at least one special character (EX: ! @ # ?). If available, take advantage of Two-factor authentication. Think of it as an extra layer of security that prevents someone from logging into your account even if they have your password. Two-factor requires you to verify your identity using security questions, short messaging service (call to your phone), and push notifications (text). Never use the same password repeatedly.
#4 Click Smart
Avoid visiting unsafe websites and never download unverified attachments or click links in unfamiliar emails. Know that no bank or online payment system will ever ask you for your login credentials, social security number, or credit card numbers by means of email. For example, if you receive a message from Amazon that you need to log in to check on an order or update a payment method, go to your browser and type www.amazon.com and log in there. Similarly, if you receive a call requesting sensitive information, decline and call the company directly using a number that you know is valid.
#5 Plan Your Plug-in
It’s always a good idea to plugin “old school” versus using the USB outlet. There have been instances where the USB outlet has been tampered with and may contain malware; allowing criminals the opportunity to track credentials and access personal and private information. So, be careful when plugging-in at the airport or other public spaces.
#6 Share Smart
Think before you share on social media. It’s never a good idea to post information about being away, your habits—work, daily activities or details about your children or grandchildren. If this information gets into the wrong hands you could put you and your family at risk.
#7 Shred It
Shred documents and/or mail that contains sensitive information. Thieves have been known to dig through trash to obtain billing and account details, receipts, and birthdate and address information. Call your local bank to see if they offer semi-annual shredding services or an office supply store like Staples.
In today’s ever–evolving tech world, it’s important to stay vigilant and well informed. Stay focused and invest accordingly.
Any statements concerning financial market trends are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The opinions expressed are those of the writer as of July 1, 2020, but not necessarily those of Raymond James and Associates, and subject to change at any time. All information provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell or otherwise invest in any of the securities/sectors/countries that may be mentioned.
There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Asset allocation does not guarantee a profit nor protect against loss. Information obtained from outside sources is believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as such.
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