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Six Ways to Protect Yourself Against Cyberattacks​


It's not just your personal and financial information that hackers are after. “From the minute somebody wakes up until the minute they go to bed—and who knows what happens when they're sleeping?—there are ways cybersecurity involves their lives that they don't even think about," says Dr. Keith Clement, professor of criminology at Fresno State. Here are some ways to stay safe (or at least safer):

  1. Pay attention to your health info. “The second-leading target these days among cyber criminals [after financial information] is your health and medical records," says Dr. Clement. In one scenario, a hacker sends you a targeted spear phishing email after you've seen your physician. The message appears to come from your doctor, who says that your blood test results just came back, she's attached the results to the email, and she needs to talk to you ASAP. “If your doctor really was Dr. Jones and the logo looks like your doctor's, wouldn't you open up the medical chart [attachment]? And that's where they get you."
  2. Change the password on your Internet of Things (IoT) devices. “Most users do not change the password on these immediately," says Sacramento State​ professor Dr. Dai. “Most are using the devices with the default password—that's why hackers can easily guess the password."
  3. Use alerts. It can seem impossible to stay on top of our data and many places it resides: banks, healthcare, retail, insurance carriers, social media and beyond. “The best thing an individual can do is monitor their sensitive information such as banking, credit and healthcare data," says Ed Hudson, Chief Information Security Officer for the CSU. “I always recommend setting alerts on debit and credit cards and locking credit so that accounts can't be opened without your knowledge."
  4. Know what to share (and what not to). “As you go about your day, you're leaking information all over the web," cautions Cal State San Bernardino professor Tony Coulson, whether it's posting about your vacation on Facebook or taking a quiz about your retirement income. “We know there are governments and criminal agents out there that are mining this data." Be smart about what you share and recognize, he adds, that “there are some things you just never share with anybody but your closest, closest confidante or your financial institution."
  5. Stay alert, especially when you're not at your best. Fatigue, grief, illness, depression—all can make us easy prey to criminals. “Social engineering looks to manipulate a situation and convince people to take an urgent course of action," explains Cal Poly San Luis Obsipo​ lecturer Henry Danielson, adding that cyber criminals try to build trust and happiness with their victims. “They use tactics like triggering our emotions and manipulation and then prey and play upon emotions when we're vulnerable." Danielson recommends asking yourself four things when encountering someone who may be trying to deceive you: Who are you? What do you want? Are you a threat? How long is this going to take? “This technique, from Chris Hadnagy, puts you on alert and may help you notice a trip-up in the social engineer's tactics," he says.
  6. Get a password manager. “We're becoming numb to all the hundreds of breaches you hear about—Target, Equifax and others," notes Danielson. “But credential theft is on the rise." If you're in doubt about how widespread these hacks are, just enter your email into “A cybersecurity researcher put this database together. It shows you which websites you've been breached by," says Danielson. "Our passwords are out there and we really need to change our passwords or use a password manager that helps you encrypt them so people can't get to them."