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Cyber Threats to Your Identity
While computers and the Internet offer huge benefits, they also offer cyber criminals opportunities to steal personal information. Cyber crooks have shown they can keep up with the fast-paced growth of technology. They constantly develop new tools and methods to trick and exploit people through computer and Internet use. The more aware you are of cyber threats, the more prepared you will be to avoid them.
Malware is a broad term for the many forms of malicious software designed to disrupt, harm or hijack a computer system or data. It includes viruses and spyware. Secretly installed on your computer without your consent, malware programs damage your privacy and the security of your computer or mobile device. They can capture your personal information in a variety of ways and secretly send it to identity thieves.
Computers and mobile devices are commonly infected with malware through email attachments, downloads and links within emails, instant messages or pop up windows.
Carefully read all disclosures, including the privacy statement and licensing agreement, before downloading and installing software. Malware may be bundled in with it. Look for wording about personal information collection, Internet activity monitoring or additional programs.
Malware can be hard to remove. If you suspect it:
- Immediately stop all online activities that require you to enter any kind of personal information.
- Update and then run your security software.
- Get reliable tech support if possible.
Phishing is when cyber thieves send you emails that try to lure you into providing or confirming personal information. The emails look like they are from legitimate organizations, often ones you know. They ordinarily use threats, warnings or enticements to create a sense of urgency. You're usually asked to click on a link. If you do, it can lead to a spoof website. This site is made to look real enough to trick you into entering personal information.
Types of Phishing:
Spear Phishing - This form of phishing targets individuals or companies. The emails appear to be from an entity you know because spear phishers use informations they already have about you to create more personalized, real-looking emails.
Pop-up window phishing - This is when thieves use pop-up windows or ads to tempt you to use fraudulent links or phone numbers
Smishing and vishing - Criminals use automated dialing and/or texting systems to try to trick you into sharing personal information. The message will direct you to a phone number or website that will ask you for more information.
Avoid Phishing, Smishing and Vishing:
- Never click on links in pop-ups or those in emails and text messages from unknown senders. Be cautious about clicking email and text message links even from known senders.
- Don't trust contact information provided in emails, text messages or pop-ups. Check into its reliability on your own.
- Don't respond to text or automated voice messages on your mobile phone if they're from an unknown or blocked caller.
- Know that most legitimate companies and organizations won't request personal information via email.
- Be cautious about downloading email attachments. Ensure that you know and trust the sender.
Signs of Phishing Emails:
- Request (usually urgent) for you to make contact through a provided link.
- Spelling and grammar mistakes
- Generic greetings, like "Dear User"
- Unsolicited attachments
Beware! Clicking on links, opening attachments or going to web addresses providing through phishing attacks frequently cause identity-stealing malware downloads.
Sign up for cyber threat alerts
at the U.S. Cyber Emergency Readiness Team
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