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How To Survive The Matrix

Community Manager

By Sara Perrott, BECU Cybersecurity


October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and we’re publishing content to build awareness about cybersecurity and provide you with tools and resources to help you stay safe online.


The internet gives us access to a wide variety of things that we had no way of interacting with in the past. We can shop online, pay our bills, read up on a new topic -- even pick up that awesome fudge recipe we’ve always wanted to try.


However, as we’ve embraced the internet and having so much information at our fingertips, we’ve also become more accessible to online criminals. Credit card theft, identity theft and other forms of fraudulent activity have become easier for online scammers because we put so much information about ourselves online. Fraudsters can use that information to make more targeted attacks, like phishing emails. 
Imagine you bank with Anytown Bank and you’re feeling angry because you received bad customer service. You post about the negative experience on Facebook to warn other customers. Shortly thereafter, you get an email from Anytown Bank apologizing for your experience, and asking for you to log in to your account to claim a $25 gift card. You are far more likely to click on this link to claim the gift card than if the email came from an unfamiliar financial institution.
How can you best protect yourself from these online criminals?
·        Don’t click on links or open attachments from sources you don’t recognize.
·        Never reply to phishing or spam emails. Replying to these potentially malicious emails proves that you have a valid email address and that you are someone who is willing to respond. This could make you a target for more attacks.
·        When you’re doing an online search, look at the link that the search result is going to take you to. Does it seem appropriate for what you searched on?
·        Like they say, “If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.” Always check reviews before purchasing something from an online retailer, especially if you have not purchased from them in the past. Make sure that the reviews are generated from a site other than the one you are looking at (e.g., Yelp).
·        Have a good anti-virus solution on your home computer and keep it up to date. This will protect you from malicious files that may try to download.
·        Use different passwords on all of the sites that you do business with. On your home computer, this is very easy to manage with a password manager such as LastPass.
Social Media
·        Be careful what you post, and remember: once it’s out there you can’t take it back. Be especially mindful of screenshots that could include sensitive information such as your street address, credit card numbers and/or social security numbers.
·        Be careful posting on social media about planned vacations. This provides an easy opportunity for thieves, knowing when you won’t be home.
·        Keep in mind that anyone can purchase advertising on social media sites like Facebook. They can also target their advertisements to age groups/demographics that are more likely to click. So again, be skeptical of that “too good to be true” deal.
Online gaming
·        Know how official communications will look in in-game chat. For instance, in World of Warcraft, a popular Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), Blizzard employees have the Blizzard logo next to their names, and they will never tell you to go to a non-Blizzard site and login.
·        If your children are gaming, keep an eye on any chats that may happen. Child predators sometimes join online games and strike up conversations with kids and teens via in-game chat.
All of these steps will allow you to better protect yourself when you’re online. Tune in for more cybersecurity content in the following weeks. Stay safe out there!