Ten years ago, most of us had never heard the term “cybersecurity.” Now, the term surfaces across our news feeds on a monthly, weekly, or – unfortunately – daily basis. As an instructor at Fayetteville Technical Community College, I like to use the catch phrase “think before you click” with my students. With the influx of mobile technology combined with years of using computers, we tend to click away well before we have the chance to think about the possible repercussions of that action. Let’s face it, technology today is woven into American society from the home, the workplace, government and private-sector business.
Every October, we computer nerds pay homage to this situation through National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. So I chose this topic to promote cybersecurity and remind everyone to think before you click.
One area we all deal with daily is email. Most organizations work hard to prevent malicious email from showing up in inboxes. But no matter how hard the good guys work to stop malicious email, the bad guys also work hard and are savvy. Eventually, some emails will make it through the system. Some of the most effective attacks have come from phishing emails. Just do a web search on this term, and you will be surprised. A phishing email is an email created to look like a valid email with the goal of tricking the recipient into sharing sensitive information or clicking on something that could allow malicious software to be loaded onto a computer.
What can you do to prevent becoming a victim of a phishing attack?
1. If you do not recognize where an email comes from, consider deleting it or report it to your technology department before opening it.
2. Remember that no reputable bank is ever going to email you and ask you to click a link to reset your password. Some emails are sent out during tax season telling recipients they owe money to the IRS or were made to look like employee benefits would be lost if the desired action is not taken. The people who orchestrate cyber attacks know that fear is a powerful tool. If you receive an email about sensitive information (banking, taxes, insurance, etc.) and it looks legitimate, before taking any action with the email, simply call your company representative to speak with an actual person who can confirm that they sent the email.
3. Make sure to use good passwords, change them frequently and do not use important banking passwords for leisure websites.
4. Have an antivirus program on your machine and keep it up to date.
5. Most importantly, avoid clicking on any hyperlinks or popup windows unless you are 100 percent positive they are safe. The bad guys write software code that can launch malicious software on your machine even if you think you are simply clicking on that little “x” to close the window.
Keep in mind that your phone is just as vulnerable to cyber attacks as your computer, so make sure to follow the same safety protocols no matter how you are accessing the internet.
Remember, a phishing email could look like anything. So how can you be sure you don’t become a victim of a cyber attack? Simply think before you click. For more information about cyber security, go to Stop Think Connect Toolkit from the Department of Homeland Security. You can learn more about FTCC’s Systems Security and Analysis program at www.faytechcc.edu.