Protect yourself from Cyber Criminals in the wake of Hurricane Ian
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued a warning related to cyber criminals and cyber scam artists who are targeting both victims of Hurricane Ian, as well as the people seeking to help those victims. As can be seen by the sharp increase in cyber crime and cyber related scams during the COVID-19 pandemic, cyber criminals and scam artists are increasingly looking for ways to exploit victims of natural disasters and those attempting to lend a hand.
One of the more common scams related to hurricanes involve fraudulent e mails that offer help to victims or offer a way for you to help victims of the Hurricane. To protect yourself, don’t open any links, attachments, or hyperlinks from anyone unless you both know them and verify (by a separate phone call or text to a previously verified number) that they sent you the link (and verify that they accessed the link, attachments, or hyperlink from a trusted source). It is important that you do not assume that your anti-virus software, if any, will protect you, as skilled cyber criminals have techniques for gaining access to everything on your computer without your anti-virus program ever detecting their presence.
To that end, after losing power and wi-fi (as many did during Hurricane Ian), it is essential that you ensure your anti-virus and anti-malware software is turned back on and running properly. Depending on what type of computer you have, this process may look a little different. For Mac (Apple) users, the best place to look is on the “Activity Monitor.” Here, you’ll be able to see background processes and apps that are running—including malware. For Dell (Windows) users, we recommend a clean install of the Operating System (OS). According to Dell, this will resolve an infection issue 100% of the time.
While victims of cyber-crime can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov or local law enforcement (or other agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)), it is unlikely those victims will be able to recover any money that they are duped into paying to a cyber-criminal unless they act very quickly and hire a cyber expert and/or cyber attorney (and even then, they are far from guaranteed to getting their money back).
Thus, the best way to ensure you keep your money in your pocket and not in the pockets of cyber-criminals, is to prevent the loss from ever occurring in the first place. To do so, make sure you scrutinize all emails and/or communications from unknown individuals, do not click on any links and/or hyperlinks from unknown sources, and actively monitor your anti-virus and anti-malware programs on your computers to ensure they are running properly and doing their job. Although this may seem like a hassle, it is worth the time and effort in light of the significant damage a cyber-criminal can do to your finances if given the opportunity.
Blog written by Attorney Benny Carollo Jr.