The virtual world is a dangerous place. Cyber attacks, phishing scams, and identity theft are just a few of the very real threats you potentially face every time you are online. You can help to protect yourself by observing these helpful tips:
 icon of a padlock surrounded by a square frame.
  • Phishing - Don't get caught in the net!
Phishing is a criminal act where you receive a fraudulent email from what appears to be a reputable company or well known individual in order to get you to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Be sure you are checking the message for any unusual signs, such as odd requests, inaccurate domain names, or other clues of suspicious behavior.
 
  • No such thing as a free lunch (or flash drive).
Never pick up a random thumb drive that you found in a public place. The drive may be coded with software that automatically installs on the connected device, allowing criminals access to confidential and personal information.
 
  • Phone if you think it's phony.
Scammers are known to pretend to be someone you work with or know personally, luring you to click on unsafe e-mail links or download dangerous attachments. This is called "spear phishing." Be sure to read your e-mails closely. Look for spelling errors, unfamiliar e-mail addresses, or unusual requests. If you question the legitimacy of an e-mail, make a quick call to the supposed sender to ensure the email is safe.
 
  •  Help! I'm being black e-mailed.
Extortion means big money for cyber criminals. Protect yourself by never sharing compromising photos or videos, and cover any web cameras when not in use. Keep in mind the criminals behind the threat don't actually have negative content on you. They are attempting to scare you into sending money. Don't open any attachments and delete the e-mail immediately. 
 
  • Fakebook?
The average internet user now has seven social media accounts. That is a lot of possible access to personal information that can be used against you in a cyber attack. This information is used to create fake profiles, business or activity relevant spear phishing attacks, or more. Be sure to keep your social media account settings on private and be cautious when sharing personal information online.
 
  • Putting the "ad" in "bad."
Clicking on advertisements, even on well-known websites, can place your computer at risk for infection. Be sure to have the most recent security updates installed and consider downloading an ad blocker program. It is also recommended to change the settings of Adobe Flash to prevent automatic infections.
 
  • "Password" is NOT a password.
Your password is one of the most important ways to protect your online confidential information. Be sure to use passwords that are easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess. Passphrases containing upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols are even better. For even greater protection consider password management software with a random password generator, or two-factor authentication. Never use very basic passwords such as "1234" or "password", store your passwords on paper, or store your passwords on an unsecured document within your computer. 
 
  • Vishing - a new twist on an old game.
Similar to "phishing", vishing is the criminal act of attempting to gain confidential information from you through the telephone by posing as a known company or individual. These attacks can be initiated by criminals calling using "spoofed" numbers, or by the victim calling a number listed in a fake e-mail or online ad. Always be aware of the personal or potentially sensitive information you are providing.