October Observance Highlights Our Collective Responsibility for Cyber Security

National Cyber Security Awareness Month, sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, kicks off in October. The launch of this observance is a good time to reflect on how, as Internet users, we can make our online experience just a little safer and more secure.piggybank

As part of this effort, the Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign was created with the help of DHS to increase the understanding of cyber threats and empower the American public to join in the shared responsibility for cyber security. Continue reading

The Convenience of “Internet of Things” Comes with Some Risky Strings Attached

IoTIf you’re not yet familiar with the term, “Internet of Things,” chances are that you’re already playing a role in it. Millions of homeowners and consumers are links in the Internet of Things (IoT), which encompasses billions of objects accessed, managed and monitored through the internet – devices and sensors, cloud-based infrastructure and data tools used daily.

It includes household items from electronics, appliances, fitness bands and smartwatches to thermostats, security systems and garage-door openers. Continue reading

Latest Malware Attack on U.S. Retailer Reinforces Need for Consumer Vigilance

Yet another reason to carefully and frequently check your bank and credit-card accounts surfaced recently, when the Department of Homeland Security issued an August 22 advisory about a point-of-sale-skimming malware package known as “Backoff.” It is suspected of enabling cyber theft of consumer payment information contained in millions of transactions.HelloMyName

The advisory estimates that this recently discovered variety of infection has affected approximately 1,000 U.S. businesses of all sizes – and many may not yet be aware of the security compromise because until recently it was undetectable by antivirus programs. Continue reading

Consumer Reporting of Cybercrime a Key Weapon in Battle Against Online Fraud

Cybercrime is all too real, particularly when almost-daily headlines casually announce the latest triumph for online hackers and fraudsters. But their illegal activities often are not treated as crimes by victimized consumers.

When a home or business is burglarized and property is stolen, it’s almost certain to be reported to law enforcement authorities – in the hope that the crime will be investigated or even solved. But when computers are hacked, personal data are stolen or fraudulent activity occurs online, many consumers may not take the same follow-up action. Continue reading

Back-to-School Internet Lesson: The difference between Search and Research

AisForAdaptOne of the things that frequently trips up students of all ages is evaluating the content they find online; is it accurate? Is it old? Is it malicious? Or, is it trying to sell or persuade me?

There is a real difference between entering some key words or phrases in a search engine and actually researching something. Continue reading

Survey Provides a Rare, Brief Glimpse into Hackers’ Motivations and Methods

Cyber hackers often are portrayed as anonymous villains, lurking in the shadows to wreak Internet havoc against corporations, individuals and governments alike. By the nature of their “work,” knowledge of their activities is limited, but even less is known on how they feel about what they’re doing.

For a few days in August in Las Vegas, a portion of the hacker population surfaced at the Black Hat Conference, a leading confab for cyber security experts. Thycotic, a Washington, D.C.-based security firm, in an anonymous survey was able to probe the thoughts of 127 self-confessed hackers while at the conference. Their responses shed some rare light on motivations for hacking – and how they approach their troublesome work. Continue reading

Smartphone Thefts and Losses Surge; Is Your Phone Secure?

Advances in technology over the past decade have led to a proliferation of smartphones, which has cemented their position as a hub of business, social and financial life for many consumers. But with their increasing prevalence is an accompanying spike in the numbers of lost and stolen phones.

Consumer Reports’ latest “State of the Net” survey shows that smartphone theft nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013, with 3.1 million devices falling into the wrong hands – and another 1.4 million phones lost and not recovered.
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Back-to-School – An Ideal Time to Review Online Safety for Your Children

It’s back-to-school time for students of all ages – from elementary to college – which means their time in front of computers and mobile devices will be increasing. The upswing in online activity also is accompanied by an increased risk for exposure to cyber threats, from hackers and online predators to malware and software bugs.

While nearly everyone already has seen suggestions for better online safety, the return of school in session is an ideal time to review a few common-sense security tips that you should implement on your younger children’s behalf – or reinforce with your teenagers. Continue reading

New Google Initiative Raises Hopes for Combating Internet Security Flaws

It seems that a day doesn’t pass without a new report of internet security vulnerabilities – either on a website or in commonly used downloaded software. It leaves us to wonder why no large-scale effort is in place to stem the tide of hacker attacks and mischievous malware designed to exploit these flaws.

Such an effort now may be getting under way with the announcement last month that Google is devoting resources to form a team for the greater good of improving securityComputerLock across the internet. Continue reading

Recent Russian Mass Hacking Raises Stakes for Password Vigilance

18917933_sThe dust is settling from the latest major Internet security breach – a massive hack by a Russian crime gang that compromised more than 400,000 Web and FTP sites and may have exposed more than 1.2 billion user passwords, IDs and email addresses. It may be the largest theft of security credentials in history – so far.

If there is a positive spin to put on this cybercrime, according to a respected security firm, it appears that the stolen data do not involve a large amount of detailed credit-card information. Instead, the pilfered IDs, passwords and email addresses may be used primarily to generate spam that advertises dubious consumer products.

This latest incident is bound to give Internet users a renewed sense of vulnerability, and the sheer scope of it means it’s likely that one or more of your password-protected sites may be affected. The initial strategy to combat these thieves is simple: Change your passwords immediately!

But a thoughtful approach to password selection will help you gain a measure of extra protection from organized “phishing” expeditions that hackers use to gain unauthorized account access.

First, the experts advise you to use a unique password for each of your online accounts – having one common password for access to all sites just makes it easier for one hack to unlock the keys to your Internet kingdom. And get in the habit of changing them frequently (at least every six months) to stay at least slightly ahead of the cyber theft curve.

When it comes to constructing a new password, simplicity is not beautiful. Instead, complexity should be your goal. Try using long phrases or even sentences familiar to you that can be condensed into strings mixing upper and lower-case letters, numbers and special symbols.

Of course, longer, complex passwords are more difficult to remember, but don’t create an additional opportunity for hackers by storing passwords for reference in a document on your computer.

Password managers such as LastPass, Dashlane and KeePass can be effective tools to organize and maintain a host of complex passwords. But they also can be subject to hacking in a worst-case scenario, so passwords or other ID credentials for these master sites must be appropriately secure. Yet, even with this risk, password managers are an extra layer of protection that’s a step forward.

Another even stronger layer of security is available from using two-factor authentication to log-on to your favorite online service – a system that requires entering a password and a second one-time code, often generated through a mobile device that has been linked to the account.

Already, sites such as Amazon, Microsoft, Gmail and Twitter offer it, and you should enable this process if given the option. While no solution is fool-proof, any extra step that makes it more difficult for hackers to penetrate site security is valuable.

Don’t wait for the next headline about a security breach to take action: be proactive and vigilant about managing your passwords. And by using tools already offered by Frontier Secure to help manage your online security, you have a head start on staying a step ahead of the next hack attack.