How to Avoid Being the Next Cybersecurity Horror Story

Illustrated image of a person using a laptop.

No one wants to be the protagonist of a horror story. And in the 21st century, that’s doubly true for cybersecurity horror stories. If you’re on the internet a lot — Who isn’t? — then you know that cybercriminals are the new boogeymen of the digital age. Candyman is nothing compared to a hacker with your credit card information. It’s not like Candyman can take out a loan in your name.

In the last decade, cybersecurity has become more crucial to our conversations around tech. However, even as recent technological advancements allow us to make one-click purchases and share data at the speed of light, making sure our sensitive information doesn’t land in the wrong hands has become its own challenge. So much so, there is a whole industry devoted to it. And for good reason: In the last three years, several Fortune 500 companies have been hacked and had user data compromised, including Yahoo, Morgan Stanley, and Marriott International. In 2021 alone, well over 20 firms and government agencies globally were subject to some sort of data breach. And it doesn’t look like hackers are letting up anytime soon. As new technology becomes easier and more convenient to use, the savvier tech scammers become, which means internet users need to be just as — if not more — savvy.

One, Two, Scammers Are Coming for You

Cybercriminals know that it is easier to hack a human than it is to hack a computer.  For this reason, the biggest cybersecurity threats are spoofing and phishing scams.  Criminals use them because they work! While most people know what phishing is, spoofing — the act of disguising a malicious email, text or website as legitimate — is what allows a phishing attempt to be successful. You’ve probably gotten it: that sketchy email in your inbox from Hulu. It looks legit, except for the fact that you don’t have a Hulu account. It goes without saying, never click on emails from senders you don’t recognize. But when it comes to emails from reputable businesses, even ones that you might deal with regularly, it can become trickier. 

There’s a common misconception that scams only work on gullible people. But the reality is that everyone is susceptible, and these scams rely on people not paying attention or feeling like they have to respond quickly. The best thing you can do is SLOW DOWN. Take your time reading emails and text messages before responding or taking action. Always check the sender’s address. While scam emails may adopt the name of a legit business, a quick glance at the email address may reveal a string of incoherent numbers and letters at a basic Gmail account. If you’re not expecting the email — Say you get an Amazon email about an order you’ve recently placed, but you haven’t placed an order — don’t click any links inside. Your instinct may be to click immediately to investigate a potential case of credit card fraud, but don’t! Instead, log into your account and verify any suspicious activity from the safety of the company’s website. Lastly, when in doubt, just don’t click the link. Contact the company directly to investigate. 

I See Hacked People

Unfortunately, an increasing number of cybersecurity failures are sometimes out of your hands. In recent years, massive corporations, agencies, and firms have been subject to attacks and ransoms, compromising client data. The most notable of the recent hacks involved the credit bureau Equifax, in which the private data of nearly 150 million Americans was breached over a period of three months in 2017. You can imagine the frustration of doing all that you can to protect yourself from security, only to lose it because of a hacking. In situations like those, it’s hard to know what could have been done. But there are some useful tips to help minimize the damage. 

Oftentimes when your data gets stolen through a hack, it’s sold online, which leaves your credit card numbers and/or account passwords floating around on the web somewhere. To avoid waking up to a $2,000 bill for charges you don’t recognize, try this advice from security experts: 

  • Don’t recycle passphrases.
  • Use different passphrases for different accounts. Try not to reuse a passphrase for work and home-related accounts.
  • Enable multifactor authentication on any account or platform where it is offered – This includes Facebook.
  • Use a password manager — in conjunction with strong, unique passphases — that encrypts your passphrases, keeping them secure.
  • Avoid giving sensitive information on websites when possible.
  • Avoid storing credit card or bank information on accounts and consider using third-party payment vendors like PayPal or Apple Pay, which obscure your CC or bank account details so you can make secure purchases. 
  • Be careful how much information you share about yourself on social media. With even just a few pieces of seemingly harmless information, cybercriminals are able to make great strides in their attempts to gain access to your sensitive information.

While these tips can’t protect you from all threats, they will help.

The Power of WiFi Compels You

If you’ve made it this far and thought, “I know all these things, and I even have some tips of my own!”, then a career in cybersecurity might be for you.

Cybersecurity is just one facet of the tech world, and Bryant & Stratton College’s technology degree programs offer a comprehensive look at three career paths, including network technology, information technology, and electronic technology. Our programs offer the insights and the skills necessary to thrive in the tech world. Add to that, you’ll be your family’s go-to person when the WiFi is down (Although that may or may not be a good thing.).

Holding your own in a field that’s as rapidly changing, and as full of security problems, as tech can feel overwhelming. But like anything, if you arm yourself with the information and tools, you’ll be able to keep yourself protected. And the ultimate tool is a degree in tech. Bryant & Stratton’s tech programs offer so much more than just information security. You’ll also get the prep you need for certification exams. And while everyone else will be catching up on all the new technological developments, you’ll have a leg up in the ever-evolving field. 

Given new technology is slated to chart the path of our future for years to come, that’s not a bad place to be.

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