We all know that hackers and cypercriminals are out there and probably not going away anytime soon. In fact, their crimes, like the recent Russian hacking incident, get bolder all the time. The truth is that criminal networks are conspiring round-the-clock to hack into our email accounts to find ways to steal our money!
A particular type of email fraud referred to as “a hostile email account takeover” is a growing trend. In this type of fraud, a hacker uses malware such as a keystroke-logging program to take control of a victim’s email account, often by secretly stealing their log-in credentials. The fraudster then monitors the email account and identifies the financial institutions or financial advisors with which the victim does business. For example, the hacker will contact financial advisors disguised as their client and ask for a wire transfer. Or, a fraudster will send an email from someone familiar to you who claims to be in trouble, out of money, and needs your immediate financial help.
We are all vulnerable to this type of fraud, but there are ways to protect yourself. Taking action may be a pain, but it would be more painful to be a cypercrime victim.
Here are 5 ideas to put into action to protect your email accounts from fraud:
1. Use strong passwords and change them often (every three to six months). Strong passwords have the following characteristics:
* Do not include dictionary words – if you use dictionary words, replace some of the letters with symbols.
* Do not include consecutive numbers or numbers that match your address, phone number, date of birth. last four digits of social security number, or other easily identifiable numbers.
* Do use a mix of symbols, numbers, lower and upper capitalization.
* Are longer than six characters.
* Are customized for each log-in.
2. Get clever with your passwords.
* Create a goal setting password. For example, floss teeth daily, stay on budget – just be sure to drop some letters and replace with numbers or symbols.
* Use a line from your favorite poem, song, or prayer and knockout some letters and replace with symbols.
* Think of your favorite books, plays, musicals and do the same.
3. Be vigilant when opening emails. Don’t open attachments or click on links from unreliable or unknown sources – this is how malware gets on your computer.
4. Keep your computer healthy by updating your operating system periodically, activating your computer’s firewall, installing and regularly updating anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
5. Use extra caution when using a public computer or logging in away from home.
If remembering multiple passwords is the bane of your existence, you can try password managers such as LastPass or 1Password. However, a password manager is only as secure as the password you assign to it. Another way to play it safer is to sign up for the two-factor authentication offered by many online services – before logging in with your password, you will have to enter a code sent to your smartphone or tablet.
Don’t be a victim, protect yourself now.
photo by Rayi Christian W, from Unsplash