With more of us spending time at home, getting online for either personal or professional reasons, we’ve become vulnerable to cyber attacks. There’s been a spike in coronavirus-related scams in the months since the pandemic took hold. People’s sense of urgency is compromised, as they anxiously try to get the latest information on the spread of the disease. Cyber criminals are taking advantage of this anxiety, along with increased time online. Furthermore, those working from home are accessing company data with their home Internet connections, which usually have fewer security protocols than corporate networks.
All these factors have created a ripe opportunity for cyber criminals and fraudsters. Fortunately, you have ways to protect yourself in cyberspace during the pandemic. The team at Amazing Support, an IT support company in London, has put together our top tips for staying safe from cyber attacks at this time.
Be on the Lookout for Scams
You should always be cautious when accessing the Internet, but your vigilance is especially important right now. Coronavirus-related scams are running rampant, so always think before you click. If you receive an email, SMS, or direct message from someone you don’t know, never click on any link they’ve sent you – particularly if it’s about coronavirus. Avoid clicking on coronavirus articles shared on social media, and don’t click on links from friends or family about coronavirus, because their social media accounts could be compromised.
Phishing emails can be easy to spot, but some hackers excel at making them look like the real thing. If there’s a sense of urgency in the email, typos, unsolicited offers, or payment requests, be wary. If you need to access your financial institution, do so through their website or app, never by clicking a link in an email or SMS.
Keeping the apps, programmes, and software up to date on your devices is also essential for cyber security. Hackers will often try to exploit weaknesses or bugs left behind by older versions of apps and software. Updates will include patches to fix these bugs, but if you don’t have the most recent version, then you’re left exposed. This is, unfortunately, a common way for cyber criminals to steal your information. By keeping everything updated, you protect yourself from vulnerability and ensure your devices are running properly.
Review Your Privacy Settings
Take some time to review privacy settings on your online accounts. Tech giants like Google and Facebook collect a great deal of information on you, including location tracking. You can bolster your Google security features, to limit the data collected on your Google account. It’s not so easy with Facebook though. Try to limit what other people can publicly see on your Facebook account, and share minimal personal details and photos.
It’s also worthwhile to check your privacy and security settings on other accounts, like your online bank accounts. Now is a good time to start using a password manager if you don’t already, and to add two-factor authentication for signing into your accounts.
Video Chat Safely
The use of video chatting apps has soared since coronavirus lockdown began. While this is a great way to connect with friends and family during quarantine, it’s been discovered that some apps, like Zoom, aren’t as secure as we thought. For large conference calls, try using open-source alternatives that don’t require you to download anything or create an account. For smaller group chats, apps with end-to-end encryption like Signal are better.
Delete Old Accounts
If you have time to spare at home, go through your old accounts and delete those you don’t use anymore. There are probably dozens of accounts associated with your email address. These unused accounts can leave you vulnerable to security attacks.
While you’re going through your old accounts, take a look at unused apps as well. Checking which apps you’ve connected via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, is a great way to find these. Remember to delete or deactivate your account before deleting the app from your phone or tablet, though.
Check Credible Sources for Coronavirus Updates
We’re in the midst of what the World Health Organization (WHO) has called the “infodemic.” False updates and conspiracy theories around coronavirus pop up in alarming numbers every day. This false information is a public health and safety threat and it’s up to you to scrutinise the information you’re taking in about the pandemic.
Look for information from credible sources like the WHO or the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). The WHO has a COVID-19 myth-busting page on its website and the University of Portsmouth has put together a list of reputable coronavirus sources.
Final Thoughts on Staying Safe from Cyber Criminals During the Coronavirus Pandemic If you’re not careful, your information could easily be stolen during the pandemic. You’re always at risk for cyber attacks when you go online, but now is the time to be extra careful. With these tips, you can protect yourself and your family from dangerous cyber attacks during the COVID-19 lockdown.