November 24, 2014
Earlier this year we told you about the Allies for Consumer Digital Safety. The Allies are made up of Target, Better Business Bureau (BBB), the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance (NCFTA), and have been working together to address the increasing rate of cybercrime by educating consumers. A Bullseye View recently had the chance to connect with the cyber security experts at BBB, NCSA and NCFTA to better understand the risk factors and to provide you with the tips and resources you’ll need make this year’s online holiday shopping experience your safest one yet. Highlights from our round table rendezvous are below.
October was National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a yearly campaign that started back in 2004. How have threats evolved over the years?
Michael Kaiser, National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA): The “threatscape” has changed a great deal since NCSA launched National Cyber Security Awareness Month with the Department of Homeland Security back in 2004. Viruses and other malicious software are way more common—and stealthy—today. Back then, for example, malicious software resulted in a never ending array of pop-up windows and slowed down your machine. Today, it can take over a machine and use it to distribute spam, contact your personal or business contacts, and distribute malware to others without any signs that your system is running any differently than normal.
Meanwhile, smartphone and tablet devices have changed the computing environment to an always-connected lifestyle, with devices collecting and disseminating a vast array of personal data on a regular basis. Social networking adds another tricky layer to the equation—sharing information about ourselves or others online has become commonplace, and bad actors can use that against us.
Maria Vello, National Cyber Forensics & Training Alliance (NCFTA): The complexity, sophistication and motives of the threats have changed. But on the flipside, some of the same cyber hygiene that security practitioners suggested for consumers in 2004 holds true today: Change your passwords, don’t use the same password for all of your accounts, do not click on links unless you know for certain it is from a legitimate source, make sure your anti-virus software is up to date, apply your security patches, type in the URL, don’t click on pop-up windows, only go to sites you know and trust, and the list goes on.
How can consumers improve their cyber security awareness and prevention efforts?
Katherine Hutt, Better Business Bureau (BBB): It’s easy to spoof the website or email of a well-known company or organization. Think twice before sharing information online, and look for “red flags” like poor grammar or typos, web addresses that are close but don’t exactly match the company’s name, a lack of contact information, or a non-secure website (secure websites will have an https address, not just http). Check out BBB Scam Stopper at bbb.org/scam for information about popular scams. While you are there, sign up for BBB Scam Alerts so you hear about scams as soon as we do.
Kaiser: Keep all software up-to-date including mobile apps and operating systems and switch on two-step verification or multi-factor authentication when available. Choose passwords that you can remember, have a different password for each account and use numbers and symbols,
Links in email, posts and texts are often the ways cybercriminals try to steal your information, so it’s important to delete, delete, delete. Before you download any app, understand and be comfortable with what information (i.e., location, your contacts, social networking profiles, etc.) the app would access and share.
Vello: Consumers are listening and viewing the security tips and information that are being made available to them. The next step is taking action on the information like taking the time to change your passwords every few weeks and being more circumspect on social media. And pausing before reacting to any email, text message or phone call that asks for personal information.
What is one thing that you find encouraging about the general direction of cyber security? As leaders in the cybercrime prevention space, are there any initiatives on the horizon that will have a strong impact on bettering the situation?
Kaiser: We should continue to see more opportunities for better protecting accounts. Multi-factor authentication will be a big improvement, with consumers needing more than just a login and password – the possibilities of how to do this are countless and any additional step increases security. Increased use of chip-enabled credit cards will be an improvement as well.
Vello: Coalitions like the Allies are important for raising awareness and providing consumers with actionable tips. In addition to BBB, the Federal Trade Commission, Internet Crime Complaint Center, Stay Safe Online, and FBI website are great resources for identifying known scams. This is a serious problem globally, so much so, the President just signed an Executive Order: Improving the Security of Consumer Financial Transactions to help educate and protect consumers. If we’re tackling the problem from the top down, and from all angles, we’re in a great position to better address cyber threats for the greater good.
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