“Be Cyber Wiser”: Be Careful of Tax Season Scams

April 7th, 2014

FAU Students, Faculty and Staff who have already filed their taxes this season can still be vulnerable to tax-related scams.  Many schemes take advantage of users by alleging to have information about the filer’s refund, or noting a problem with the return that you previously filed.

 If you haven’t file yet then please read the IRS recently released Dirty Dozen Scams for 2014, which highlights common scam tactics, including those that occur offline, such as criminals who impersonate legitimate charities or agencies and place phone calls to victims to solicit money.  Do not give out Personal Information to callers who are asking you to verify personal or sensitive information over the phone.

 Vigilance about the security of your online activities is required every day, but is even more important during this time of year.  Tax season can be stressful for a lot of people, and cyber criminals exploit this through targeted phishing attacks that try to scare you or entice you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment.

 Here are some basic precautions that will minimize risk include the following: 

1.         Do not respond to emails appearing to be from the IRS. The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through email or social media tools to request personal or financial information. The IRS does not send emails stating you are being electronically audited or that you are getting a refund. If you receive an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, send it to phishing@irs.gov.

2.         Do not send personal or sensitive information in an email. Criminals may intercept the information.

3.         Do not open any attachments or click on links contained in suspicious emails. Common scams push tax rebates, offer you a great deal on tax preparation or offer a free tax calculator tool.   If you did not solicit the information, it’s likely a scam.

4.         Carefully select the sites you visit. Safely searching for tax forms, advice on deductibles, tax preparers, and other similar topics requires caution. Do not visit a site by clicking on a link sent in an email, found on someone’s blog, or on an advertisement.  The website you land on may look just like the real site, but it may be a well-crafted fake.

5.         Be wise about Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi hotspots are intended to provide convenient access to the Internet and are not necessarily secure against eavesdropping by hackers.

6.         Secure your computer. Make sure your computer has the proper security controls, including up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall.

“Be Cyber Wiser” and “Think before you Click”  

“Be Cyber Wiser”, Protect Data in the Cloud

March 5th, 2014

Many of FAU Students and Faculty/Staff are now using Cloud Storage.  What is Cloud Storage all about?  Well, Cloud Storage is a service provider offering called DaaS -  Data as a Service.  The Service provider will give you access to your files from an APP or Web Browser and you can  move the files from/to the Cloud via the Internet.   Current popular free Cloud Storage providers are:

Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) -  7GB free cloud  storage and integrated with all Outlook.com users

Google Drive  -  5GB free cloud storage and integrated with FAU Owl Apps and other Google Users

Apple iCloud  -  5GB free cloud storage and integrated with Apple iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc. users

Dropbox  -  2GB free cloud storage and integrated with apps for the MS Windows desktop, ios and android devices

I would never put anything personal or private in the Cloud without encrypting it first.  I suggest that you protect your Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and don’t post it or any other sensitive information in these Cloud service environments.  Cloud Storage services are great for sharing pictures, music and normal documents but I would never store anything in the Cloud that could be used by the cyber criminals.

“Be Cyber Wiser”: Keep Your Anti-Virus Software Updated!

February 17th, 2014

What antivirus software do you use?  Regardless of whether you use a Mac or a PC, make sure you have antivirus protection on your systems and make sure you keep it updated.  Without the appropriate security patches applied, your systems and your applications are vulnerable to attacks or malware exploits.  Make it a practice to update your software regularly, on a certain day and at a certain time.   My software is set to auto update daily, at 3:00 a.m.  I also do a full security scan of my Microsoft Windows Operating system every weekend starting at 1:00 a.m.

So you may ask, what antivirus software do I use on my personal system?  I use Microsoft Security Essentials on all my MS Windows systems.  MS Security Essentials is a free product and it works well for me.  It is basically the same product as the enterprise version Microsoft Forefront security product that we use here at the University minus some of the extra bells and whistles for centralized management and management console features.

And what about you?   What do you use as an antivirus product and how often do you keep it updated?   There are lots of great products out there. The top-rated “Pay for” security and antivirus products for 2013 were  Webroot,  McAfee,  Trend Micro, and Kaspersky Labs.  If you do decide to buy an antivirus product  just be sure you keep it updated.

Finally, make sure you also keep your web browsers and plugins up to date with the latest versions and patches.   Be cyber wiser! Keep your Antivirus software updated and patched, and set to auto update.   For more Cyber-Security information please go to our web site at www.fau.edu/security or contact Larry Thomas, lthomas@fau.edu, 561-297-3259 

“Be Cyber Wiser”, Protect Mobile Devices

January 8th, 2014

BYOD is skyrocketing so we need to ensure that we take our mobile device security just as seriously as our desktop security.  First we need to lock the devices with a security code or password as a first line of defense.  Next,  don’t “jail break” your mobile devices.  Jail breaking is when you circumvent the manufacturer’s setup and operating system (OS) and basically do your own thing with the setup and security of the device.

Some common ways that mobile devices get infected is from the download of applications from different App stores.  You can easily install an infected application without knowing it.  Google and Apple stores aren’t perfect but at least some vetting takes place before apps are placed in these stores.  Here are some other measures you can take to help protect your mobile devices:

  • Password protect your mobile devices.  Use PIN code or passwords.
  • Update and patch the OS and applications on your devices to reduce vulnerability.
  • Enable encryption if possible to slow down the cyber thieves.
  • Don’t store sensitive work-related information on your private mobile devices.
  • Stick with the conventional Apps from legitimate stores like Google Play and Apple Store.
  • Pay attention to what you install.
  • Avoid opening links from sources that you don’t recognize or that appear suspicious.
  • Use WI-FI networks that are encrypted like WPA2 encryption.
  • Reduce app clutter; if you don’t use it delete it!

“Be Cyber Wiser” and keep your mobile devices’ operating systems (iOS and Android) and their Apps updated!