Tuesday Tip: Prevent Hackers From Stealing From You
By Yehudit Garmaise
Meilech was sitting at home, working on his laptop, when his computer froze.
“All of a sudden, I couldn’t do anything on my computer,” Meilech told RocklandDaily. “When a box appeared on my screen that said that Microsoft had closed my computer ‘as a protection from potential hackers,’ I called the phone number posted.”
Meilech’s call, however, did not reach a Microsoft call center. Instead, the call went to a hacker.
When Meilech called what he thought was Microsoft, he was asked many questions that eventually led to requests for Meilech’s credit card numbers “to create a new protection plan.”
After directing Meilech to open up his computer and relay the number that was now appearing on his screen, Meilech also noticed a warning.
“Never, ever give this number over the phone,” the warning said. “Microsoft will never ask you for this number.”
“So, I told the guy, ‘I don’t want to give you the number, which Microsoft says right here never to give over the phone,” said Meilech, who then, for the next 15 minutes, was screamed at by the hacker.
Realizing that he was in the midst of being scammed, Meilech instantly canceled his credit cards, whose numbers he had revealed, and shut down his computer.
“This happens to a lot of people,” Meilech said. “The solution is just to shut down your computer and then restart it. As long as you don’t give any information over the phone, usually, no damage is done.”
Thankfully, Meilech chapped in time, but his experience is an example of “phishing,” which is a type of online scam in which hackers target consumers by posing as well-known sources, such as Microsoft Word, one’s internet service provider or bank, and then asking consumers to provide personal information.
Hackers then use their victim’s personal information to invade their existing accounts and to open new accounts, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Besides never providing sensitive information, such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other personal information over the phone, please consider the following seven tips to protect yourself from hackers.
Create strong passwords: Many experts say to create for every account: different passwords, which can be difficult to remember unless you use a password manager or carefully keep a document that lists all of your passwords. Especially if you only use two or three passwords for all your accounts, ensure that those passwords are strong and difficult for hackers to guess.
For instance, don’t use your birthday, your name, your spouse’s name, or all uppercase or lowercase letters.
Try to create hard-to-hack passwords by making them as long as possible, using a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, and using both numbers and symbols.
One idea to make good passwords is to make acronyms for secret phrases that are meaningful to you but impossible for others to guess.
For example, if the phrase, “Sunshine makes me happy,” is true for you, then you can use the first letter of each word, mix in up upper and lower case letters, throw in a number and a special symbol, and you have created a hard-to-crack password, such as SmmH:)8*.
Install antivirus software: “You don’t have time to look for all the threats, like viruses and malware,” wrote Kim Komando, who provides advice about internet security. “Let an antivirus program do the work for you.”
Only open emails from people you know, and only click on links that you know are legitimate. Hackers use your clicks to install harmful malware onto your devices.
Only open attachments that you expect from friends, family members, and coworkers. Phishing emails often come with dangerous files attached.
Use authenticator apps when they are offered: Even when accounts, such as your bank, require two steps of verifying your identity, such as passwords and security codes, hackers still sometimes intercept those texts, called (2FA) texts. To better protect consumers, some accounts offer authenticator apps, which provide one-time codes that refresh every 30 seconds.
“Whenever an account gives you the option to connect an authenticator app, take it,” Komando wrote in the New York Post.
Back up your important data once a week: Hackers inject viruses that lock down data into phones and computers. Then hackers tell victims that they will never be able to access their data unless they pay expensive ransoms.
“Even paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee that hackers will give you back your files, Komando wrote. “They are criminals, after all.”
File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3.gov) if you have been hacked: to help stop the hacker who targeted you from going after anyone else.
Photo Credit: Flickr