On April 29th, a hack into Colonial Pipeline, the largest pipeline in the United States, forced the company to suspend operations for more than a week. The hack led to fuel shortages across the East Coast and sky-high prices for millions of Americans. Colonial paid the hackers a $4.4 million ransom shortly after the hack.
On August 10th, Blockchain site Poly Network said hackers had stolen millions of dollars of digital tokens. In total, $267m of Ether currency, $252m of Binance coins, and $85m of USDC tokens were taken.
On August 17th, T-Mobile confirmed personal details on more than 50 million customers had been compromised. The breach is the third major customer data leak that T-Mobile has disclosed in the past two years.
If major companies, with top-of-the-line cybersecurity measures, can get hacked so easily, can regular people do anything to protect themselves online?
Hacking vs Phishing
Individuals are rarely hacked, at least, not in the traditional sense – we’re just not high-value targets.
In a hack, information is extracted involuntarily after the perpetrator first takes over the computer system.
In a phish, a user is baited with an email, phone call, or text message, and tricked “voluntarily” into responding with information. The most common form of phishing (pronounced “fishing”) is the practice of sending emails claiming to be from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, banking information, and more.
More on Phishing
Phishing, then, is what the average person needs to concern themselves with. It is a low-budget, wide-net casting hack that scammers use to target many individuals at once.
Spending five minutes familiarizing yourself with common phishing campaigns will almost certainly prove to be time very well-spent. Many phishing scams only require a victim to click a link that contains malicious content or steal your credentials. All they need: your email address and the tap of a button.
Preying on Older People
Compared with the general population, older people are likely to have more money, to be more socially isolated, to suffer from cognitive decline, and to lack tech savvy. Unfortunately, this makes them a vulnerable target.
The pandemic has likely worsened the problem – elderly people have become more socially isolated than ever.
Some of the most common scams run against older people are:
- Grandchild scams: The perpetrators claim to be the target’s grandchild and are in some sort of trouble. They ask for money to resolve the situation.
- IRS scammers: The perpetrators claim that their targets owe back taxes, and threaten them with property seizure or arrest.
- Fake tech support: Claiming to be from legitimate computer companies, these fraudsters try to convince targets that their computer has been infected with a virus. They request personal information and/or bank account numbers to resolve the problem.
Younger family members can provide a bulwark against elder financial fraud. Again, mentioning the most common scamming techniques can pay dividends for years. Older family members will often defer to younger ones when it comes to technology – use that tendency to provide education and support.
10 Cyber Security tips for Everybody
- Keep Software Up-to-Date: Many software updates include patching security liabilities – update frequently.
- Use Anti-Virus Software
- Use Strong Passwords: Don’t repeat passwords and don’t be afraid to write them down (on paper!).
- Use Multi-Factor Authentication (when possible)
- Learn about Phishing Scams: Be suspicious of unrecognized emails and phone calls.
- Protect Personal Identifiable Information
- Use Mobile Devices Securely
- Backup Data Regularly
- Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi, especially high-trafficked areas (think airports), is the easiest place for cybercriminals to access data.
- Review Credit Card and Bank Accounts Regularly