Scam of the day – Mary 19, 2017 – WiFi networks at Mar-a-Lago vulnerable

A recent report by ProPublica and Gizmodo has found security vulnerabilities in the WiFi networks at Mar-a-Lago, the resort often visited by President Trump as well as a number of other Trump destinations including the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey, Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. and Trump National Golf Club in Virginia.  According to the report, “Our inspections found weak and open WiFi networks, wireless printers without passwords, servers with outdated and vulnerable software and unencrypted login pages to back-end databases containing sensitive information.”  As would be expected the White House is not commenting on this report other than to indicate that these locations follow cybersecurity best practices.  However, the important lesson to us all is to remind us that public WiFi is never secure. However, with some precautions it can be made safer.

TIPS

Whatever electronic device you are using to connect to a WiFi network, whether it is a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone should be equipped with security software.  In addition, you should use encryption software so that your communications are encoded.  You also should go to your settings and turn off sharing.  In addition, you should make sure that your firewall is current and turned on.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which enables you to send your communications through a separate and secure private network even while you are on a public network.

Scam of the day – June 3, 2016 – How safe are you doing online and mobile banking?

Just about everyone does some or all of their banking and bill paying through their computers online and more and more people are using their smartphones and other mobile devices to do their banking and bill paying as well.  Not only can electronic banking be fast and convenient, it can also be safe if you take the proper precautions.  Unfortunately, many people do not take the proper security steps necessary to protect themselves when doing online banking on their computers and even fewer people take important security steps when doing their banking and bill paying on their smartphones and other portable devices leaving them in serious danger of having their bank accounts hacked.

TIPS

Here is a list of important steps you should be taking to make your electronic banking more secure.

  1. First and foremost use a strong password which is one that contains capital letters, small letters and symbols.  Simple and common passwords even when they are encrypted can be cracked relatively easily through the use of sophisticated computer programs.  A good way to pick a strong password is to take an easily remembered phrase as your password.  For instance, you can use the phrase IDon’tLikePasswords as your base password.  Add a couple of !! at the end of the password and you have a strong password.  Since you should have a unique password for each of your accounts, you can adapt this base password for your banking account by merely adding a couple of letters to designate your bank at the end of the password so it may read, for instance, IDon’tLikePasswords!!BnkoAm.
  2. The answers to many security questions used by banks can be easily obtained either from public data bases or from the information that you may unwittingly post online in social media.  A common banking security question is your mother’s maiden name.  A good way to make this a strong security question is to use a nonsensical answer that only you will remember as the answer.  Thus the answer to the question could become “Pomegranate.”  It is silly enough for you to remember, but impossible for a hacker to guess.
  3. Use dual factor authentication by which when your bank account is being accessed online or through your smartphone, a one-time code is sent to you to use to access your account.  Surprisingly, some national banks such as Citibank, PNC Bank and TD Bank do not provide the option for dual factor authentication.
  4. Install and maintain with the latest security updates anti-malware and anti-virus software on both your computer and your portable devices.  Too many people do not use security software on their smartphones and many people do not update their security software promptly.
  5. When using a portable device for electronic banking do not use public Wifi. Instead use a Virtual Private Network which will encrypt all of your electronic communications.  A good VPN is CyberGhost which can be downloaded for free using this link.  www.cyberghostvpn.com
  6. Password protect your smartphone and other mobile device and don’t store sensitive information on your mobile devices.

Scam of the day – February 27, 2016 – Dangers of public Wi-Fi

Recently, USA Today journalist Steven Petrow wrote about his using in-flight Wi-Fi to send emails while flying on an American Airlines flight. Upon landing, Petrow was approached by one of the other passengers who informed him that during the flight he had hacked into Petrow’s laptop as he had done to other passengers as well.  The hacker proved his assertion by recounting to Petrow the contents of the emails he sent and received. The lesson here is one that too many of us forget, namely that public Wi-Fi is not secure.  However, with some precautions it can be made safer.

TIPS

Whatever electronic device you are using to connect to a Wi-Fi network, whether it is a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone should be equipped with security software.  In addition, you should have encryption software so that your communications are encoded.  You also should go to your settings and turn off sharing.  In addition, you should make sure that your firewall is current and turned on.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which enables you to send your communications through a separate and secure private network even while you are on a public network.  A good VPN that you can use for free is CyberGhost which you can get by clicking on this link.  http://www.cyberghostvpn.com/en_us

Scam of the day – January 20, 2016 – Real estate home buying scam

Intricate email scams targeting people involved in the sales of residential real estate have increased over the past year both in the United States and the UK.  The scams begin with the hacking into the email accounts of one of the parties involved with a residential real estate conveyance.  This can be either the buyer, seller, lawyers, real estate agent or banker.  Unfortunately, hacking into email accounts is a relatively easy thing for a skilled identity thief to do.  They then monitor the communications regarding the progress of the sale of a particular piece of real estate and when the time is right,  generally posing as one of the lawyers or the bank mortgage officer, the scammer will email the buyer, telling him or her that funds necessary to complete the sale need to be wired to the phony lawyer’s or banker’s account provided in the email.  Everything appears normal so unsuspecting buyers too often are wiring the money to the cyberthieves who then move the funds from account to account to make it difficult to trace the funds.

TIPS

Even if you are not involved in buying or selling a home, it is always a good idea to protect your email account from being hacked.  This means having a strong password and security question as well as changing your passwords on a regular basis.  You can find information about how to pick strong passwords and security questions here in the Scamicide archives as well as in my book “Identity Theft Alert.”  Maintain good anti-virus and anti-malware software on all of your electronic devices including your computer as well as your smartphone and keep your security software up to date with the latest security patches as soon as they are made available.  Don’t click on links in emails or text messages that may contain malware that can steal your personal information from your electronic devices and remember, your security software is always at least thirty days behind the latest malware.

Don’t use public wifi for any financial or business purposes.  Use a virtual private network to encrypt your data when using your electronic devices in public.  Never provide personal information in response to an email regardless of how legitimate it may appear until you have independently confirmed that the email is legitimate.  Finally, whenever you are asked through an email or text message to wire funds as a part of a real estate or other business transaction, don’t do so until you have confirmed that the request and the account to which you are being asked to wire the funds are legitimate.  Appearances can be deceiving so always confirm.

Scam of the day – January 26, 2015 – 7 Year old child hacks into public WiFi in under 11 minutes

The famous comic, Groucho Marx once remarked that a four year old child could understand a report he started to look at, but as he read further and found he couldn’t understand it, he said, “run out and find me  four year old child.”  Well, Betsy Davis isn’t four.  She is seven, but it is still pretty impressive that a computer savvy seven year old could find the instructional information she needed to hack into a Wi-Fi system and then hack into a public Wi-Fi system all in a mere ten minutes and fifty-four seconds.  Fortunately, Betsy is not a criminal hacker, but was enlisted as a part of a security experiment to see how easy it was to hack into a public Wi-Fi network and steal information from people using the network.  All of this begs the question as to how safe are you when you use public Wi-Fi?  The bad news is that most people are not pretty safe.  The good news is that by following a few precautions, you can enhance your safety significantly.

TIPS

Whatever electronic device you are using connect to a Wi-Fi network, whether it is a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone should be equipped with security software.  In addition, you should have encryption software so that your communications are encoded.  You also should go to your settings and turn off sharing.  In addition, you should make sure that your firewall is current and turned on.  Finally, you may wish to consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which enables you to send your communications through a separate and secure private network while you are on a public network.  A good VPN that you can use for free is CyberGhost which you can go to by clicking on this link.  http://www.cyberghostvpn.com/en_us