Not falling victim to cyber scams sounds simple enough – don’t click on things you don’t recognize, don’t open things from people you don’t know, don’t send money to the long lost relative you’ve never heard of at the promise of an inheritance; but even in 2022, it’s increasingly important to stay vigilant when it comes to your safety online.
Cyber criminals are getting creative and more deceptive than ever, often using email addresses that look legitimate, current topics, and promises of prizes or free things to get victims to click on malicious links. In fact, almost six out of ten (57%) Canadian Internet users reported experiencing a cyber security incident in 2018, and Canadians suffered more than 63,000 cyber incidents in 2020 alone.
These criminals count on catching people off-guard – a simple email that looks exactly like the one you’d normally receive from the bank asking for you to update your credit card information, and suddenly, they have access to all your financial information. Creating opportunity for cyber criminals to access your personal data puts you at incredible risk, in fact, globally, around 65% of cyber crimes are related to identity theft.
There are, however, lots of ways to stay alert and cautious when interacting online. As a general best practice, we recommend changing the passwords of web services you personally use often and using different passwords on different accounts to ensure maximum security. For work or school accounts, you should always follow the recommendations given to you in your board’s policy, and where available and supported, enable multifactor authentication. Additionally, consider using a passphrase for added security; instead of using a pet’s name or an anniversary, use a sentence or phrase with multiple letters, numbers, and symbols.
Another rule of thumb is to always check and inspect emails that might look legitimate. Always check the sender’s email address and email properties – examine emails for inconsistencies and phishy language and requests. Generally speaking, establishments that house your delicate personal information won’t reach out to you for more or updated data for security purposes. If you’re still unsure after inspection, call the sender or speak to someone in your IT department. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry and you should never feel embarrassed to ask a professional.
Finally, installing end point protection software on your personal devices can protect you and your device from malware. Most school boards manage the software and end point protection on the devices they hand out to staff and students. Make sure you are allowing that software to update regularly to get the latest information needed to do the job. Downloading unknown programs is the most common way to infect your device and others with malware. For example, you may download a software application that looks legitimate but that is maliciously designed to attack your computer or device. That malicious software can also attempt to infect other computers and devices on your home or school network. Unfortunately, direct downloads aren’t the only way you can get malware. You might infect your computer or device by opening or downloading email attachments or clicking links in emails or text messages. Always use caution when clicking unknown links but protect yourself even further by ensure your device is equipped to handle a threat when and if it arises.
While we’d like to believe we’d never fall for a scam, it’s easy to fall into legitimate looking traps. By staying vigilant online on a constant basis, you reduce your risk of being the victim of cybercrime. If you’d like to learn more about staying safe online, visit this useful information hub provided by the Government of Canada. Let’s reduce the statistics this year and keep