Malware contains viruses, Trojan horses or other types of malicious code designed to steal personal information or hijack your computer or other device – without you knowing of its presence. These forms of harmful software can be spread through email, Web sites, text messages, instant messages and more.
- Make sure your antivirus software is updated and that your firewall is active. Ensure that your antivirus software subscription includes anti-malware software.
- Don't open emails, attachments or links from a source you don't know and trust.
- Use your security software to scan attachments before opening.
- Use complex passwords with letters, numbers and symbols (but not so complex you can't remember them), and change them periodically. And don't write down or share your passwords. Important: Never use your full or partial Social Security number in your user ID or password.
- Don't use the same user ID on all sites.
- When you log in to certain Web sites, such as your bank site, it's not uncommon to be asked to answer a challenge question to perform certain tasks. However, even on sites you know are legitimate, beware of unexpected popup boxes asking for other types of personal and account information. Your computer or other device may have been infected with malware by a hacker trying to get you to disclose confidential information.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allow millions of people to stay connected to friends and family like never before. Not surprisingly, the popularity of these sites has made their users attractive targets for identity thieves and hackers.
- Don't "friend" strangers. Clicking a link in a message from an unreliable source may lead to a malicious site or download harmful software to your computer or device. The condensed web addresses commonly used on social sites may also bypass your spam filters, making it more difficult to tell which links are legitimate.
- Be careful to whom you provide personal information. Announcing in public forums information like your birthday, email address, phone number and even your child or pet's name may enable an identity thief to track down additional information about you or give them hints to your account and online passwords. So that you don't have to broadcast your email address or phone number to communicate with a friend, most social sites allow you to send and receive private messages; take advantage of that feature.
- Don't announce upcoming vacations or other trips on a public site.
- Familiarize yourself with and use the Privacy settings on your social media sites to restrict who can access your page or profile.
Mobile devices today do much more than allow you to make calls. You can surf the Web, text, send and receive email, and more. Unfortunately, these same convenient features can also make you vulnerable to many different types of cyberattacks. Use the same precautions with phone calls made to your mobile phone you would use with your home phone. Likewise, the same rules for protecting yourself from email fraud on your computer would apply if you check email on a mobile device. However, smart phones and other mobile devices also bring with them unique threats.
Tips for your mobile device:
- "Smishing" – As a phishing attack would target your email by getting you to click on a link in a message from a supposedly reputable source and provide sensitive information, a smishing attack uses a text message to do the same thing. Don't click on any link or download an application if you have any doubts as to the sender's authenticity, and do not provide personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited message. As many smishing text messages will appear to come from a legitimate source such as your financial institution, make sure you're familiar with the privacy policies and mobile communication safeguards of the sources you allow to send you messages.
- Mobile app malware – With the market for smart phones and tablet devices exploding, the number of mobile applications that allow you to perform a wide variety of functions on these devices has also grown rapidly. Device manufacturers and software developers have begun to detect and pull an increasing number of apps containing malicious code from app stores. So make sure you only download apps from trusted sources. Also, a growing number of online security providers are now offering anti-malware software for mobile devices that is worth researching.
- Take advantage of any security settings available on your device.
- Don't store sensitive personal or account information on your device.