Clicking with caution: Cybersecurity data breach risks are higher than ever | Causes, Not Just Cases®

Whether you’re getting an education, talking to your doctor through telehealth services, or shopping online, it’s important to know that cybercriminals are lying in wait, in search of any opportunity to steal your private health or personal information to your detriment. Unfortunately cybercriminals are only honing their skills and even cybersecurity companies and the U. S. government aren’t immune from an attack. With the pandemic came a rise in cyber-attacks. Fortunately, there are important steps you can take to protect yourself and your family, but several common misconceptions can make it easier for you to fall victim if you aren’t vigilant. 

Below are some cybersecurity myths that many people believe, only to find out too late that their assumptions weren’t entirely true. I discussed a few recommendations from cybersecurity experts in a previous blog post, but below are additional best practices to consider as you navigate the internet to help you protect your identity from theft. 

1. Smartphone apps that have my location are risk-free.

Despite their convenience, location services often collect and sell intimate details about your day-to-day whereabouts to marketers and other third parties without your knowledge or consent, also known as ad tracking. The New York Times recently posted an article sharing these instructions on how to disable ad tracking on Android phones. Click here for iPhone instructions

2. I’m tech savvy and online all the time. Cybercriminals can’t trick me.

We all know to be cautious when providing personal information on the internet, but there’s no overstating that all it takes is one wrong click to grant cybercriminals full access. Many times, cyberattacks are disguised as fake updates for well-known software companies, or articles or emails that have headlines that grab your attention. Always place a call to a company directly to verify if you’re ever in doubt. Make “Think before you click!” more than a slogan.  

3. I have antivirus and anti-malware software, so Why do I need additional security, especially on trustworthy websites?

Even “safe” sites are susceptible to cyberattack. In February of 2020, Blackbaud, a cloud software company, experienced a cyberattack and data breach that affected hundreds of local and international charities, nonprofit hospitals, universities and other organizations. Websites for small or medium-sized organizations are still just as susceptible. 

4. I change my passwords often and I make them too hard to crack!

Good for you! Changing your passwords periodically is important but it isn’t enough anymore and may be futile if your passwords aren’t strong enough to withstand a potential attack. A strong password is typically a dozen characters or more with symbols, numbers and varying upper and lowercase letters. If you need inspiration, try picking letters from the title of an uncommon song or phrase that is unique to you. Two-factor identification is also recommended.   

5. I will be able to detect if something bad happens to my device.

Not necessarily. Today’s improved malware is harder to detect than ever. Depending on the type of cyberattack on your device or network, your device may continue to run smoothly, allowing access and damage to happen undetected over time. 

6. Robocalls are easy to identify. 

There are legal and illegal robocalls. For example, you can grant a pharmacy access to robocall you when it’s time to pick up a prescription. But cybercriminals may also try to trick you into giving out your personal information over the phone (or via text) by impersonating a utility company, claiming you owe a fine or  you’re needed for jury duty. Overall, don’t pick up the phone if you aren’t expecting a call, and confirm that a call is legitimate before providing any information. If they leave a voicemail, don’t be fooled. 

7. My antivirus software provides enough protection. 

Experts say encryption methods and verifying your identity through multi-factor authentication are the biggest cybercriminal obstacles. Make sure to enable those protective options whenever possible, use software, and make sure your software is up to date. 

8. If I stay off the internet I can’t get hacked. 

One would think this is true, but there are many other ways to get hacked. If you have a smart home device, flash drive, pump gas or use an ATM your information can still be stolen. 

At the end of the day, your actions provide the biggest obstacle to cybercriminals. Stay informed on best practices, follow the latest advice from cybersecurity experts, and report any suspicious activity to the Federal Trade Commission and your local police. Practicing responsible online habits, keeping software current, and staying informed of best practices are necessary now more than ever to protect yourself and your identity during this time when so many people are inside due to the pandemic. Contact an attorney if your privacy has been compromised. 

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Jodi Westbrook Flowers