How to stay safe online during Coronavirus isolation

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As most of us find ourselves playing out much of our lives online, whether that’s working from home, teaching from home or keeping ourselves entertained, there comes an increased possibility of opening ourselves up to potential attacks from cybercriminals.

David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Global security expert, Kaspersky, provides the below advice on how best to stay safe when relying on technology during these uncertain times…

All of a sudden, we find our entire lives playing out online. Never before has the connected world and our ability to communicate, socialise, work and transact online been more front-of-mind, or more critical. Although the ability to do this is incredible, we have to face the reality that where people go, cybercriminals follow.

If there is an opportunity to exploit a situation and lure people into disclosing personal data or sending money falsely, you can guarantee that cybercriminals will be working on it. We have already seen examples of coronavirus/COVID-19-related malware trying to piggyback on the virus, hiding malicious files in documents purporting to relate to the disease, but the opportunities for our online security to be compromised don’t end there.

Streaming

This coming weekend is likely to see the highest levels of online streaming ever, as millions who would normally be out socialising in bars and restaurants are forced to stay home. This is undoubtedly going to put streaming services under huge strain and may cause some slowdowns in service provision, which in turn will lead to people looking for alternative ways to access online content.

However, straying from the protected portals of our favourite legitimate streaming services for films, games and other content, will play into the hands of cybercriminals and will leave the public vulnerable to attack. As tempting as it may be to find alternate sources of content, Kaspersky advises that users should be patient and stick to trusted streaming sources, as well as following these tips for safe online streaming:

  • Stick to trusted sources, i.e. services for which you have a subscription, not random sources by double-checking the URL format or company name spelling before you download. Fake websites may look just like the real thing, but there will be anomalies to help you spot the difference.
  • Pay attention to the extension of the downloaded file. If downloading TV show episodes, the file must not end in .exe 
  • Be careful about the torrents you use and do look up the comments about the downloadable files. If comments are unrelated to the content, you are probably looking at malware.
  • Protect devices used for streaming and make sure you apply updates to the operating system and applications.
  • Don’t click on links promising early viewing of content; and if in doubt about the authenticity of content, check with your entertainment provider, i.e. if you’re not sure if something advertised as released is actually available in your region.
  • Use a credit card if possible for payments and try to avoid saving card details to the streaming site. Use a unique, complex password for each of your online accounts

Shopping

Not being able, or not wanting, to leave the house at the moment is bound to create a higher demand for online shopping services as people seek to buy food, entertainment and other items online. This, coupled with boredom shopping, as well as desirable offers from retailers trying to stay afloat as the economy takes a hit, mean cybercriminals will be prowling.

At any peak shopping point we see an increase in shopping related malware and phishing attacks, as we do at any time when something is particularly topical or people are vulnerable, because online criminals like to seize the opportunity to catch people out with must-have deals that often seem too good to be true. And they usually are. So for that reason we are advising consumers to be extra vigilant at this time and remember these tips when shopping online and opening emails from online retailers:

  • Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true – they usually are.
  • Type the URL into your browser to check the deal on the website, rather than click on links in emails
  • Check for the padlock sign/HTTPS in the address bar when paying
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card for extra payment protection
  • Never save your card details to a website
  • protect devices used for shopping and make sure you apply vulnerability patches
  • Use a unique, complex password for each of your online accounts

Fake News

Fake news is not new, we’ve see how it has affected/influenced significant events in the past, but during national and global crises, the issue and impact of fake news proliferation is more real than ever. At this time, it is particularly important to pay attention to the source and validity of information before sharing or acting upon it. We have already seen incidences of incorrect health advice about anti-inflammatory drugs circulating through various media, including WhatsApp and social networks, and through valid online news sites, which have only added to the panic and chaos.

The proliferation of fake news will only slow and confuse government efforts to disseminate helpful and essential information/advice. As such, we recommend that people take extra care to validate information they trust and share to avoid adding to the problem. This might seem difficult but can be fairly simple, if you:

  • Only trust reputable/validated news sites
  • Seek to validate information passed along by word of mouth/WhatsApp/social media. This is fairly simple to do by searching in a trusted news site
  • If you can’t validate information, think before you share it, and be responsible with information you pass along or repost

 

Chris Price
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