4 Things You Can Learn from Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October

Cybersecurity isn’t just about companies preventing their networks from being breached. It’s something that everyone that uses technology needs to be mindful of. On a personal level, you can think of it as information and device security. 

Stopping hackers from getting to your personal data and keeping dangerous viruses out of your computer requires a personal level of cybersecurity. Being safe online is one part of the equation. The consequences of being lax about things like passwords and using free Wi-Fi without safeguards can be high.

Over 24 million Americans have had online accounts taken over by hackers, this includes workplace retirement apps. It’s scary to think of accounts having to do with your money being emptied by a scammer, but it happens all too often. Last year, account takeovers rose nearly 72%. 

Every October, two US government agencies promote Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) provide helpful tips and resources for both consumers and businesses to raise cybersecurity awareness.

Why not take some time this October to brush up on your security hygiene? You can visit the Cybersecurity Awareness Month website to get some free resources, and below we’ll highlight four key best practices being promoted this year.

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Taskbar Icons: What Do They Mean?

We’ve all seen them before: those little icons that show up in our taskbars next to the clock. They come in all sorts of shapes and colors. 

*But, what do they mean?* 

The specific icons may vary depending on your operating system of your computer, but they will usually have similar functionality.

While some of them are fairly self-explanatory, others can be a bit more confusing. Let’s take a look at what some of the most common taskbar icons mean.

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6 Tips For Organizing Your Gmail to Avoid a Bottomless Inbox

How often have you missed out on an appointment, paying a bill, or responding to an important message because the e-mail notice got lost in your cluttered inbox?

Every day, we receive lots of e-mails, both important and unimportant, which can be overwhelming. Due to the numerous amount of e-mails, it can cause unnecessary stress, including taking up time to clear them out and differentiate between the important and unimportant.

One thing that quickly fills up e-mail inboxes is newsletters, e-mail circulars, catalogs, and event invitations. These e-mails contribute to the build-up of e-mails in your inbox.

According to Marketing Charts, 84.5% of e-mails in the inbox are promotions, while 86.8% of e-mails in the inbox are updates. Only 55.5% of e-mails in the inbox are primary e-mails. However, whatever the reason, the accumulation of all these e-mails over time if left unmanaged will cause your Gmail to be filled with a bottomless inbox of unread messages.

Especially for the elderly, it is essential to keep Gmail organized. This helps them focus on important tasks and frees up valuable time. With an organized Gmail, you will be able to get important and relevant messages and meet up with various payments and appointments.

You don’t have to dread opening your Gmail account. Here are some essential tips to help organize your Gmail.

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You May Not be Using All the Great Features of Your Browser

Web browsers are your gateway to the internet or World Wide Web. Browsers contain a lot of features that make your online experience more efficient. This includes things like tabs that allow you to open different web pages at the same time, and “bookmarks” or “favorites” that let you save website addresses so that you don’t have to type-in or search for frequently visited websites. 

Some of the most popular browsers are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari, and Opera. These browsers have many useful features to help you get things done with ease. While some features of the browsers are known, others are either unknown or under-utilized,

Here, we’ll discuss some of the great features of your browser that you may not be using yet. 

5 Helpful Browser Features You May Not Be Using

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Use This Clever Acronym (SLAM) To Identify Dangerous Emails in Your Inbox

Cybercriminals are continuously targeting naïve individuals. They do not discriminate when it comes to defrauding people. They’ll obtain money from anyone – young, old, poor, and rich. The American Journal of Public health notes that about 5% of adults get scammed yearly.

In the United States, older adults lose about $40 billion per year due to cyberattacks. Cybercriminals can easily exploit the information of an older adult, which can be obtained through smartphones or computer systems. Unfortunately, senior citizens are easy targets of cybercriminals because of their inexperience with using technology. Many older citizens have social media accounts, surf the internet, and use credit cards online. Unlike the younger generation, older adults are generally less aware of cybercriminals’ activities, and as such, they lack the necessary information to help them stay protected from these malicious activities. 

Cybercriminals may reach out in a non-suspicious manner. They may send a link through a legitimate email and offer to assist them with resolving issues. Or they may send an email posing as a company offering cheap vacation trips, or even coupons or prizes. 

These fake emails are called phishing. The criminal is trying to fish for victims, just like fishermen fish for bass, trout, etc. The fake emails act as their lures. Phishing is one of the main causes of all types of data breaches, credit card theft, and other cybersecurity issues.

Then, these hackers will proceed to request personal information from the unsuspecting victim. They will use the information generated to access their credit cards and defraud them if successful. 

Scams targeting the elderly population are becoming rampant in the United States, and their effect on them is damaging. For online criminals, scamming the elderly can bring easy monetary rewards. 

One way to protect yourself from these malicious activities is to use the SLAM method of phishing detection. SLAM is an acronym that represents:

  • Sender
  • Links
  • Attachment
  • Message 
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Don’t overbuy: How to save money on your internet service

Updated July 2022 to update new faster base speeds and the addition of T-Mobile Wireless Home Internet:

Internet service is sold and priced at the speed of the internet connection you can expect at your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) modem/gateway.

As of July 2022 in Reno, Charter’s Spectrum service offers download speeds of 300 Megabits per second (Mbps), 500 Mbps and 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps or often referred 1 Gig). AT&T’s xDSL Internet service offers slower download speeds ranging from less than 1 Mbps to 100 Mbps, and speeds up to 5000 Mbps (5 Gbps) on their fiber-to-the-home service. Lastly, T-Mobile began offering wireless home internet service this year with download speeds advertised at 33-182 Mbps – which is fast enough to stream UHD/4K video quality.

Of course, the higher speeds will cost more money. Count on spending at least $50/month for reliable internet service, but anything above $95/month is probably unnecessary.

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New option for home internet service – should you switch?

Wireless carrier T-Mobile is expanding their services to include Home Internet in some areas of Reno/Sparks. Assuming you are in their limited service area – should you switch?

Why you may want to switch

  • If you’re on a budget, at $50/month TMHI is less expensive than most AT&T and Spectrum internet plans.*
  • TMHI is available in some rural areas that are under-served by AT&T and Spectrum.
  • If you’re in an area served only by AT&T’s legacy DSL service with speeds less than 6 Mbps, and Charter/Spectrum is not an option.

* Low-income households may qualify for a discount of up to $30/month on internet service from many providers through the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Why you may NOT want to switch

  • Wireless service speeds are more variable and can be less reliable than other wired providers, particularly during peak times.
  • If you’re on a bundled package with AT&T, DirecTV or Spectrum and don’t want to change your TV and/or home phone service.

Internet speeds provided by local home internet providers

The chart below shows a comparison of the speeds provided by the major internet providers. Streaming video needs the most bandwidth (higher speeds), but that number only needs to be as high as 25 Mbps for streaming the highest-quality 4K Ultra HD content.

AT&T DSL<6 / (<1)
AT&T U-VerseUp to 100 / (Up to 20)
AT&T Fiber100-5000 / (100-5000)
Charter/Spectrum Cable300, 500, 1000 / (10, 20, 35)
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet33-182+ / (8-25+)

If you need help deciding which internet or other service provider is best for you, contact us.

Keep your smartphone safe

Today’s smartphones retain a lot of personal data that you likely wouldn’t want to get into the wrong hands. Below is a list of just some of the data that can be accessed if someone got into your smartphone:

  • Someone can receive one-time passwords via text message or authenticator app that can be used to reset account passwords
  • Impersonate you by being able to send and receive calls, email and text messages on your behalf
  • Impersonate you through any social networks apps that you use
  • Access any notes, passwords or private pictures you may have stored
  • Reset your phone and sell it

How you can protect your smartphone

The most important thing you should do is to protect your smartphone with a numeric passcode and/or biometric authentication (finger or facial recognition). 6-digits is better than 4-digits – but 4-digits is definitely better than no passcode. Also, set your smartphone to auto-lock and require the passcode after 5-minutes or less of inactivity (less time is better).

I am surprised by how many clients I’ve helped who had no passcode on their phone. Smartphones are easily lost or misplaced, and a passcode will help keep your data out of the wrong hands. Most people don’t keep their doors unlocked, so why keep their smartphone unlocked?

Other things to keep your smartphone safe include:

  • Only install apps from trusted developers with lots of favorable reviews
  • Treat every text message and email from unknown senders as suspicious – particularly if it’s asking you to do something. Most text messages from financial institutions come from a 5-or-6-digit “short code” – not a 10-digit phone number.
  • Connect your smartphone to Wi-Fi when at home, and make sure you keep the operating system (typically iOS or Android) up-to-date with the latest security patches.
  • You don’t need an antivirus or security app, nor a VPN. Protections are already built into the operating system of your mobile device, and apps are vetted before being made available in the app stores. However, be judicious about the apps that you install, because occasionally stuff gets by the reviewers.
  • Most importantly, password protect your device. You are more likely to lose or misplace your device than getting hacked from the outside.

Do you need help with your mobile device(s). Contact us to discuss your needs.

Is Zelle Safe? How To Protect Yourself When Using Payment Apps

Payment apps like Zelle and Venmo are a customer favorite because they are a convenient, fast, and easy way of electronically exchanging money between others. Zelle’s popularity and quick exchange of funds between one bank and another attracts more than just new customers. Unfortunately, it attracts hackers and scammers too.

With so many headlines about Zelle scams on the news lately, many users can’t help but wonder about the platform’s safety. Scammers target Zelle users and siphon off their hard-earned money through phishing scams. The truth is, Zelle is safe as long as you are careful, and you pay attention.

By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll know more about Zelle and how you can safely use the platform without falling victim to scammers.

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Has Your Computer Been Hacked, or Is It Another Phishing Scam?

How many times has this happened to you? You’re on your computer reading, catching up with friends on Facebook, or shopping on Amazon when a pop-up window shows up claiming that your browser has been hacked or blocked. 

You’re in good company if it’s your first time seeing such a message splash across your screen. Millions of computer users all over the globe see such messages whenever they surf the internet. And no, it doesn’t mean that your browser has been compromised. It’s simply another method known as pop-up phishing, which scammers use to target unsuspecting victims. 

What Is Pop-Up Phishing?

Pop-ups are generated by websites to offer users additional information or guidance (such as how to fill in a form, how to apply a discount code, etc.) 

With pop-up phishing, you get something malicious disguised as a scare message to get you to act. Pop-up phishing occurs when criminals hijack legitimate websites with malware code, causing the website to spring up these “your computer has been hacked” messages whenever a new user visits the website. 

Pop-up phishing is usually so effective because of the type of message that “pops up” and the content of the message. They typically provide a phony warning to an unsuspecting website visitor, claiming that the visitor’s computer security has been compromised. The visitor is then asked to either download a necessary tool to remedy the “security threat,” such as an antivirus program (often malware in disguise), or contact a phony phone number for “help.”

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