Stephen Mayer

BBB Advice

Malware. Ransomware. Data breaches and hack attacks. These may have all been foreign terms just a year ago, but not anymore. Consumers are much more aware of digital threats, thanks in large part to that massive attack on the credit reporting bureau Equifax.

Millions of Americans had their data compromised in that attack. While many took steps to protect themselves, we know a lot of consumers simply ignored the threat altogether.

This problem has already hit close to home for Oregonians. In fact, a local consumer filed a Scam Tracker report, warning others of an apparent cyber attack on his personal computer. In the report, the man told Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific that he was surfing the web when a pop-up window appeared. He said the window told him to call an 800 number to be “safe and protected.” He says once the window appeared he lost all access to his own computer and still can’t regain control.

This is a classic example of a ransomware attack. Through various methods, hackers take control of your computer, then demand a ransom to get it back.

This is just one reason why BBB is urging you to take advantage of all the great resources available as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month kicks off. Are you guilty of procrastinating when it comes to your digital defenses? Don’t worry, now is your chance to act.

BBB urges you to follow these simple steps to protect your digital data:

— Keep a clean machine: Ensure all software on internet-connected devices — including PCs, smartphones and tablets – is up to date to reduce risk of infection from malware.

— Lock down your login: Your usernames and passwords are not enough for the personal data protection of email, banking and social media. Begin your spring cleaning by fortifying your online accounts and enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device.

— Declutter your mobile life: Most of us have apps we no longer use and some that need updating. Delete unused apps and keep others current, including the operating system on your mobile device. An added benefit of deleting unused apps is more storage space and longer battery life. Actively manage your location services, Bluetooth, microphone and camera – making sure apps use them appropriately.

— Do a digital file purge: Perform a good, thorough review of your online files. Tend to your digital records, PCs and phones and any device with storage just as you do for paper files. Start removing digital clutter by doing the following: 

— Clean up your email: Save only those emails you really need, and unsubscribe to email you no longer need/want to receive.

— Back it up: Copy important data to a secure cloud site or another computer or drive where it can be safely stored. Password protect backup drives. Make sure to back up your files before getting rid of a device, too. 

For cybersecurity tips, other scams and the latest alerts, download the BBB App at bbbapp.org. Anyone who feels they may be a victim of a cybercrime should report it to local law enforcement and BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.

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