M.D.Risser

Email Security in these Troubled Times

With the increased tensions between Iran and the U.S., there is a concern that Iran, or hackers working for Iran, may attempt cyber attacks against the U.S., especially government and critical infrastructure. In light of this, I feel I should put out a little reminder on how to keep yourself safe. Here are 4 simple tips to help you safeguard your computer and the information stored on it.

1. Keep Your Antivirus Updated

This is one of the most helpful things you can do for your computer and the information stored on it. If you don’t have an antivirus installed on your system, there are some good free ones available from Comodo, AVG, Avast, Bitdefender, Avira, and Kaspersky. (NOTE: I am not affiliated with any of these companies, nor do I recommend one over the others. This is just alist to get you started.) There are others out there, all you need to do is do a search for them.

2. Be Suspicious of Emails

Many people say you should be suspicious of unsolicited emails, however I feel that that falls short. With email spoofing, hacked accounts and the like, you really should be suspicious of all emails you receive. Develop a habit of reading the entire email, not just quickly scanning it. Often times you can spot a malicious email from the grammar and spelling.

Keep a lookout for emails asking you to divulge personal information or login credentials, this should always be a red flag. Reputable businesses shold never ask you to reveal this information.

Develop a habit of checking links in emails before clicking on them. This is easily done by just hovering the mouse pointer on your computer over the link. All email clients that I am aware of will show you the link when you do this. Of course, this only works on a computer, not a phone or tablet. I try to avoid opening links on my phone or tablet if I can help it at all.

And since I’m talking about emails, be very, very, very suspicious of email attachments. If you aren’t expecting an attachment, don’t open it. Just don’t do it. If it appears to be from someone you do business with, but its not something you were expecting, varify it with that person first. All it takes is a quick phone call, text message, or separate email (Don’t just reply to the email asking them to verify, create a new message using a known good email address for that person.).

3. Don’t Go for the “Tech Support” Scam

This one comes in several different forms. One form says something to the effect of, “Microsoft has detected a virus on your computer, please call 1-800-867-5309…”  Another one says something to the effect of “An issue has been detected with your computer, please call 1-888-555-1234…”

Yeah, no! These are scams, and the person on the other end of the phone will ask you to allow them remote access to your system to remove the virus. Don’t Do It! They’ll steal personal information (bank account info, usernames and passwords), install malware, delete files, etc.

If you think you might have a problem with your computer, take it to a reputable service technician, and no, not me. 😉

4. Install an Ad Blocker

There are quite a few ads out there that contain malicious code, also known as malvertising. Now I know that a lot of sites these days are detecting ad blockers and asking you to disable them because they rely on advertising revenue to deliver the content to you. My response is this: I get it, but can you 100% guarantee me that the ads served on your site are safe? If I disable my ad blocker and get infected from an ad on your site, are you going to reimburse me for the costs associated with removing the malware? That includes my down time, etc.

Chances are pretty darn good that none of these sites are willing to go that far, and I’m not willing to risk it. If I absolutely can’t use a site without disabling my ad blockers (USA Today comes to mind), then I’ll just go elsewhere. There are plenty of other sites out there with similar content.

Another good alternative to browser based ad blockers is a network based ad blocker. Pi-Hole is an awesome one, and one that I highly recommend. For around $80 you can get a Raspberry Pi, single-board computer, and everything you need to get it up and running. Then just plug it in to your home network, install the Pi-Hole software, using the instructions on the Pi-Hole site, and you’re good to go. Pi-Hole is free and open source, with a great community for help with any problems you might encounter.

NOTE: I do not receive any money from Amazon or Canakit for the link to the Raspberry Pi, nor am I affiliated with either of those companies or the Pi-Hole software. I just really beleive in them and as a result highly recommend them. I’ve had zero problems with my Raspberry Pi, and got a tremendous amount of help from the Pi-Hole Developers with an issue I was having with Pi-Hole at work. I could go on raving about them, but that’s not the point of this post. You can read more about my experiences with Pi-Hole here and here.

Just these 4 tips alone will go a long way to keeping you safe online. There are many other tips I could share, in fact, I may do a series of posts on online safety, we’ll see…

I hope you find this helpful, and please, feel free to share this information with your friends and family.

 

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