Today, cyberattacks are a common headline around the world. We are all too familiar with the largest data breaches: Capital One was hacked, compromising 106,000,000 records; Facebook allowed a rouge application to illegally obtain records of 540 million users; and the Equifax leak impacted 143 million people. According to Cisco, ransomware attacks are growing more than 350 percent annually1 and Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that cybercrime damages in general will cost $6 trillion by 2021.2
But the truth is, while attacks on big companies make the news, it’s the private individuals who are most at risk. People like you and me don’t have the same resources as big companies to defend and protect against cyberattacks. By heeding the age-old wisdom that “Knowledge is Power” and by identifying risks, you can take proactive measures to address and respond to these threats. Here are some ways you can recognize and protect yourself against cybercrime attempts:
It’s challenging to differentiate a scam email from a legitimate one; however, most have slight hints of their criminal nature. Here are three tips to help you identify a malicious email and maintain your online security.
1. Watch for companies that ask for your sensitive information via email.
Odds are, if you get an unsolicited email from an organization that provides a link or attachment and asks you to give sensitive information, it’s a scam. Companies will not send you an email asking for passwords, credit card information, credit scores or tax numbers; nor will they send you a link from which you need to log in.
2. Beware of unsolicited attachments.
A legitimate institution won’t randomly send you emails with attachments. Cisco’s 2018 Annual Cybersecurity Report identified Microsoft Office file extensions, such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel, as the most commonly used malware files (at 38%).5 Never open attachments from senders you don’t know. If you want to verify validity of the attachments, contact the sender directly to confirm.
3. Make sure links and email addresses match.
Check the sender’s email address by hovering your mouse over the ‘from’ address to make sure no changes have been made. For example, let’s say you see these altered emails: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Did you notice the difference?
Also, make sure to double-check URLs. If the link in the text isn’t the same as the URL shown when the cursor hovers over it, that’s a sign you may be taken to a site you don’t want to visit.
There are steps you can take to mitigate the damage if you have been a victim of a cybersecurity breach or other identity theft incident.
At Mercer Advisors, we value the relationship we maintain with our clients. In fact, it’s our most valuable asset. We honor and serve this relationship by maintaining the highest standards of trust and confidence, which includes the safeguarding of client information. We take extraordinary measures to:
1 “Ransomware Lessons for the Financial Services Industry,” Cisco, May 2017.
2 “Cybercrime Damages $6 Trillion by 2021,” Cybercrime Magazine, October 2017.
3 “IBM Security Services 2014 Cyber Security Intelligence Index,” IBM Global Technology Services, 2014.
4 “Internet Security Threat Report, Volume 23,” Symantec, March 2018.
5 “Cisco 2018 Annual Cybersecurity Report,” 2/18.
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