072017 Safety: Seniors most vulnerable for cyber criminals
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Safety: Seniors most vulnerable for cyber criminals

By Nikki Best

It can happen to anyone.

In 2012, the state Department of Revenue was the victim of a cyber crime.

Information dating back to 1998 was breached, including social security numbers, tax records and even credit card numbers. Most of the information was encrypted, but not all of it. The state responded by investigating the breach and offering citizens who may have been affected by the breach credit monitoring for one year.

At the time, Gov. Nikki Haley wanted the hackers, “slammed to the wall.”

Cybercrime is on the rise. The 2012 incident was a large-scale breach of information, but small-scale breach attempts happen all the time. The FBI Common Fraud Schemes website says, “senior citizens especially should be aware of fraud schemes” because they are most likely to be victims.

Joe Thibodeau of Tech Sentries in Myrtle Beach visited the Waccamaw Library this week to give an overview of what seniors can do to prevent becoming a victim of cyber crimes. He gets most of his business through word-of-mouth recommendations. “We need to start educating on why these things occur,” he said.

Seniors are targeted in computer crimes because they are “immigrants” to the information age, versus younger generations who were born into it and are “native.” The FBI said, “older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed.

Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.”

Scams have gotten smarter and so people must as well. Precautions can be taken to keep information secure. “The first thing is you need some sort of security software on your computer,” Thibodeau said. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Mac, PC or Linux system, software protection is paramount to security. Along those lines, it helps to keep software updated. Most operating systems and program updates come with new security protocols that help keep users safe from malware, spyware or ransomware.

See “Crime,” Page 4

From Front Page

Malware is software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems. Spyware is software that enables a user to obtain covert information about another’s computer activities by transmitting data covertly from their hard drive. Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.

Handling a ransomware attack is difficult. Thibodeau recalled one of the first he was called about. Back in 2013, a graphic designer fell victim to a hacker and all the files on the computer were encrypted unless the ransom was paid. “They were encrypted, there was no getting that back,” he said. “But because I had a back up solution at that time, and we kept versions of the files, I noticed the next day I could restore all the data from that. I got the previous version.” It was a happy ending. All the client ended up losing was the most current version of files. Not all stories end so well.

After obtaining security software, or seeking help from a computer security service, “The next thing they need is some kind of password protection,” Thibodeau said. He doesn’t mean when an internet browser offers to remember a password, he means another program specifically designed to keep passwords safe.

Programs likes Dashlane, LastPass or KeePass are all options. Different programs offer different levels of encrytion, reporting and convenience for users. The programs can generate and organize very strong passwords or passphrases, for different online accounts. “It doesn’t really matter which you choose,” Thibodeau said. “I happen to use Dashlane because I’m used to it. It really depends on the person’s needs which program is right for them.”

The last rule of computer safety is the oldest one: back up data regularly. “It’s been the rule since 1979 when I bought my first computer from Radio Shack,” Thibodeau said. There’s lots of options to automate back-ups, operating systems like Windows or Mac offer their own. “I will tell you though, ransomware guys are starting to go after back up files.”

Thibodeau recommends having more than one backup solution. This can mean uploading information to the cloud or having more than one hard drive. The most important rule of computer security is to be proactive and to question what comes up on screen. If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.

“I’m essentially in the fire alarm business,” Thibodeau said. “You know when people call me? The day after.”

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