Author Archives: Radhika Sarang

How to Build Your 5G Preparedness Toolkit

5G has been nearly a decade in the making but has really dominated the mobile conversation in the last year or so. This isn’t surprising considering the potential benefits this new type of network will provide to organizations and users alike. However, just like with any new technological advancement, there are a lot of questions being asked and uncertainties being raised around accessibility, as well as cybersecurity. The introduction of this next-generation network could bring more avenues for potential cyberthreats, potentially increasing the likelihood of denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks due to the sheer number of connected devices. However, as valid as these concerns may be, we may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves here. While 5G has gone from an idea to a reality in a short amount of time for a handful of cities, these advancements haven’t happened without a series of setbacks and speedbumps.

In April 2019, Verizon was the first to launch a next-generation network, with other cellular carriers following closely behind. While a technological milestone in and of itself, some 5G networks are only available in select cities, even limited to just specific parts of the city. Beyond the not-so widespread availability of 5G, internet speeds of the network have performed at a multitude of levels depending on the cellular carrier. Even if users are located in a 5G-enabled area, if they are without a 5G-enabled phone they will not be able to access all the benefits the network provides. These three factors – user location, network limitation of certain wireless carriers, and availability of 5G-enabled smartphones – must align for users to take full advantage of this exciting innovation.

While there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of 5G, as well as what cyberthreats may emerge as a result of its rollout, there are a few things users can do to prepare for the transition. To get your cybersecurity priorities in order, take a look at our 5G preparedness toolkit to ensure you’re prepared when the nationwide roll-out happens:

  • Follow the news. Since the announcement of a 5G enabled network, stories surrounding the network’s development and updates have been at the forefront of the technology conversation. Be sure to read up on all the latest to ensure you are well-informed to make decisions about whether 5G is something you want to be a part of now or in the future.
  • Do your research. With new 5G-enabled smartphones about to hit the market, ensure you pick the right one for you, as well as one that aligns with your cybersecurity priorities. The right decision for you might be to keep your 4G-enabled phone while the kinks and vulnerabilities of 5G get worked out. Just be sure that you are fully informed before making the switch and that all of your devices are protected.
  • Be sure to update your IoT devices factory settings. 5G will enable more and more IoT products to come online, and most of these connected products aren’t necessarily designed to be “security first.” A device may be vulnerable as soon as the box is opened, and many cybercriminals know how to get into vulnerable IoT devices via default settings. By changing the factory settings, you can instantly upgrade your device’s security and ensure your home network is secure.
  • Add an extra layer of security.As mentioned, with 5G creating more avenues for potential cyberthreats, it is a good idea to invest in comprehensive mobile security to apply to all of your devices to stay secure while on-the-go or at home.

Interested in learning more about IoT and mobile security trends and information? Follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like” us on Facebook.

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School of Cyberthreats: 3 Attacks Impacting Today’s Schools

Educational institutions are data-rich gold mines. From student and employee records to sensitive financial information, schools contain a plethora of data that can be obtained by cybercriminals rather easily due to lack of security protocols. This fact has cybercriminals pivoting their strategies, leading to a recent uptick in attacks on the education sector in the United States and around the world. In fact, there are three main threats impacting schools — data breaches, phishing, and ransomware. Let’s take a look at each of these threats, how cybercriminals have executed them, and the precautions students can take in the future.

Data Breaches

Nearly half of the cyberattacks that impacted schools in 2018 were data breaches, which occur when an unauthorized, third-party gains access to a school’s network. From there, cybercriminals gain access to a host of private information on employees and students, including names, dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and Social Security numbers. After an attack of this nature occurs, educational institutions reassess their current cybersecurity strategy. This usually entails revisiting privacy settings and reviewing all security protocols. 

Phishing

Even the savviest email user can fall for a phishing scheme. These types of schemes usually entail tricking teachers or students out of private information or money. When cybercriminals send emails with fraudulent links, unsuspecting users click on that link because the web address is usually only off by one or two letters. Once the scammer has been given access through the malicious link, they get to work obtaining private information contained on the device. Using this data, they can enact further schemes. There have even been cases of cybercriminals impersonating deans or teachers asking for gift cards, which is a type of spear-phishing where scammers take the information they have obtained about a victim and use it to their advantage. The good news? Users can prevent against these sneaky attacks by staying vigilant and applying security best practices.

Ransomware

When ransomware hits, schools don’t really have a lot of options. If they have data backups in place, then they don’t have to pay the ransom, otherwise educational institutions have no choice but to completely shut down. Considering how much technology has been integrated into classrooms, this isn’t surprising. A ransomware attack usually occurs when a school district’s system is infiltrated by a virus intending to bring operations to a halt. Cybercriminals hold systems hostage for a certain amount of money or ransom until the district decides to pay. The data that is held can range from a variety of things – lesson plans, financial information, personal employee and student records. There aren’t many ways for schools to bypass these types of attacks unless they are prepared beforehand. One way to be prepared is to back up files in multiple places, such as an external hard drive or cloud.

With the uptick in overall cyberthreats against schools, more and more educational institutions need to put protocols into place to avoid the multitude of ever-growing threats. However, students can do their part in prioritizing cybersecurity by following these tips to ensure personal data is secure:

  1. Watch what you are clicking. Phishing schemes are becoming craftier. A too good to be true study guide or deal on a textbook might end in a compromised system. It is always best to check directly with the source of the email or link before handing over money or data.
  2. Make sure you recognize the sender. When responding to a message, first check to see if you recognize the sender’s name and email address. If it looks strange, ignore the message. If you are unsure, check with the sender in person.
  3. Never reuse passwords. Many users reuse the same passwords or slight variations of it, across all of their accounts. That means if a hacker uncovers one password, all other accounts are put at risk. So, it is crucial to use different passcodes to ensure hackers cannot obtain access to all of your accounts.
  4. Stay on a secure network. If you connect to public Wi-Fi, be sure the network is secure. If it is not, consider using a virtual private network (VPN).
  5. Install security software on all devices. Security doesn’t begin or end with personal computers. All devices need to be protected with comprehensive security software, including mobile devices and tablets.
  6. Make sure all device software is up-to-date. This is one of the easiest and best ways to secure devices against threats, as developers are constantly releasing patches for vulnerabilities and flaws.

And as always, if you are interested in learning more about IoT and mobile security trends and information, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like” us on Facebook.

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Evolved IoT Linux Worm Targets Users’ Devices

Since the early ‘90s, Linux has been a cornerstone of computer operating systems. Today, Linux is everywhere — from smartphones and streaming devices to smart cars and refrigerators. This operating system has been historically less susceptible to malware, unlike its contemporaries such as Windows or Mac OS. However, the widespread adoption of IoT devices has changed that, as security vulnerabilities within Linux have been found over time. These flaws have been both examined by researchers in order to make repairs and also exploited by hackers in order to cause disruption.

As recently as last month, a new strain of a Linux bricking worm appeared, targeting IoT devices– like tablets, wearables, and other multimedia players. A bricking worm is a type of malware that aims to permanently disable the system it infects. This particular strain, dubbed Silex, was able to break the operating systems of at least 4,000 devices. By targeting unsecured IoT devices running on Linux, or Unix configurations, the malware went to work. It quickly rendered devices unusable by trashing device storage, as well as removing firewalls and other network configurations. With this threat, many users will initially think their IoT device is broken, when really it is momentarily infected. To resolve the issue, users must manually download and reinstall the device’s firmware, which can be a time consuming and difficult task. And while this incident is now resolved, Silex serves as a cautionary tale to users and manufacturers alike as IoT devices continue to proliferate almost every aspect of everyday life.

With an estimated 75.4 billion IoT connected devices installed worldwide by 2025, it’s important for users to remain focused on securing all their devices. Consider these tips to up your personal device security:

  • Keep your security software up-to-date. Software and firmware patches are always being released by companies. These updates are made to combat newly discovered vulnerabilities, so be sure to update every time you’re prompted to.
  • Pay attention to the news. With more and more information coming out around vulnerabilities and flaws, companies are more frequently sending out updates for IoT devices. While these should come to you automatically, be sure to pay attention to what is going on in the space of IoT security to ensure you’re always in the know.
  • Change your device’s factory security settings. When it comes to IoT products, many manufacturers aren’t thinking “security first.” A device may be vulnerable as soon as the box is opened, and many cybercriminals know how to get into vulnerable IoT devices via default settings. By changing the factory settings, you are instantly upgrading your device’s security.
  • Use best practices for linked accounts. If you connect a service that leverages a credit card, protect that linked service account with strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA) where possible. In addition, pay attention to notification emails, especially those regarding new orders for goods or services. If you notice suspicious activity, act accordingly.
  • Set up a separate IoT network. Consider setting up a second network for your IoT devices that doesn’t share access with your other devices and data. You can check your router manufacturer’s website to learn how. You may also want to add another network for guests and their devices.
  • Get security at the start. Lastly, consider getting a router with built-in security features to make it easier to protect all the devices in your home from one place.

Interested in learning more about IoT and mobile security trends and information? Follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like” us on Facebook.

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Catch a Ride Via Wearable

More often than not, commuters and travelers alike want to get to their destination quickly and easily. The advent of wearable payments helps make this a reality, as passengers don’t have to pull out a wallet or phone to pay for entry. Adding to that, users are quickly adopting wearable technology that has this payment technology embedded, causing transportation systems to take notice and adopt corresponding technology as a result. Unfortunately, there’s a chance this rapid adoption may catch the eye of cybercriminals as well.

Just last month, the New York City Subway system introduced turnstiles that open with a simple wave of a wearable, like an Apple Watch or Fitbit. Wearables may provide convenience and ease, but they also provide an open door to cybercriminals. With more connections to secure, there are more vectors for vulnerabilities and potential cyberthreats. This is especially the case with wearables, which often don’t have security built-in from the start.

App developers and manufacturers are hard-pressed to keep up with innovation, so security isn’t always top of mind, which puts user data at risk. As one of the most valuable things cybercriminals can get ahold of, the data stored on wearables can be used for a variety of purposes. These threats include phishing, gaining access to online accounts, or transferring money illegally. While the possibility of these threats looms, the adoption of wearables shows no sign of slowing down, with an estimated 1.1 billion in use by 2022. This means developers, manufacturers, and users need to work together in order to keep these handy gadgets secure and cybercriminals out.

Both consumers and transport systems need to be cautious of how wearables can be used to help, or hinder, us in the near future. Rest assured, even if cybercriminals utilize this technology, McAfee’s security strategy will continue to keep pace with the ever-changing threat landscape. In the meantime, consider these tips to stay secure while traveling to your destination:

  • Always keep your software and apps up-to-date.It’s a best practice to update software and apps when prompted to help fix vulnerabilities when they’re found.
  • Add an extra layer of security. Since wearables connect to smartphones, if it becomes infected, there is a good chance the connected smartphone will be impacted as well. Invest in comprehensive mobile security to apply to your mobile devices to stay secure while on-the-go.
  • Clear your data cache. As previously mentioned, wearables hold a lot of data. Be sure to clear your cache every so often to ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
  • Avoid storing critical information. Social Security Numbers (SSN), bank account numbers, and addresses do not need to be stored on your wearable. And if you’re making an online purchase, do so on a laptop with a secure connection.
  • Connect to public Wi-Fi with caution. Cybercriminals can use unsecured public Wi-Fi as a foothold into a wearable. If you need to connect to public Wi-Fi, use a virtual private network, or VPN, to stay secure.

Interested in learning more about IoT and mobile security trends and information? Follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like” us on Facebook.

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Say So Long to Robocalls

For as long as you’ve had a phone, you’ve probably experienced in one form or another a robocall. These days it seems like they are only becoming more prevalent too. In fact, it was recently reported that robocall scams surged to 85 million globally, up 325% from 2017. While these scams vary by country, the most common type features the impersonation of legitimate organizations — like global tech companies, big banks, or the IRS — with the goal of acquiring user data and money. When a robocall hits, users need to be careful to ensure their personal information is protected.

It’s almost impossible not to feel anxious when receiving a robocall. Whether the calls are just annoying, or a cybercriminal uses the call to scam consumers out of cash or information, this scheme is a big headache for all. To combat robocalls, there has been an uptick in apps and government intervention dedicated to fighting this ever-present annoyance. Unfortunately, things don’t seem to be getting better — while some savvy users are successful at avoiding these schemes, there are still plenty of other vulnerable targets.

Falling into a cybercriminal’s robocall trap can happen for a few reasons. First off, many users don’t know that if they answer a robocall, they may trigger more as a result. That’s because, once a user answers, hackers know there is someone on the other end of the phone line and they have an incentive to keep calling. Cybercriminals also have the ability to spoof numbers, mimic voices, and provide “concrete” background information that makes them sound legitimate. Lastly, it might surprise you to learn that robocalls are actually perfectly legal. It starts to become a grey area, however, when calls come through from predatory callers who are operating on a not-so-legal basis.

While government agencies, like the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission, do their part to curb robocalls, the fight to stop robocalls is far from over, and more can always be done. Here are some proactive ways you can say so long to pesky scammers calling your phone.

  1. There’s an app for that. Consider downloading the app Robokiller that will stop robocalls before you even pick up. The app’s block list is constantly updating, so you’re protected.
  2. Let unknown calls go to voicemail. Unless you recognize the number, don’t answer your phone.
  3. Never share personal details over the phone. Unfortunately, there’s a chance that cybercriminals may have previously obtained some of your personal information from other sources to bolster their scheme. However, do not provide any further personal or financial information over the phone, like SSNs or credit card information.
  4. Register for the FCC’s “Do Not Call” list. This can help keep you protected from cybercriminals and telemarketers alike by keeping your number off of their lists.
  5. Consider a comprehensive mobile security platform. Utilize the call blocker capability feature from McAfee Mobile Security. This tool can help reduce the number of calls that come through.

Interested in learning more about IoT and mobile security trends and information? Follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like” us on Facebook.

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3 Things You Need to Know About Summer Cybersecurity

summer screen time

The summer season is quickly approaching. Users will take to the skies, roads, and oceans to travel throughout the world for a fun family adventure. But just because users take time off doesn’t mean that their security should. So, with the season’s arrival, we decided to conduct a survey so to better understand users’ cybersecurity needs, as well as help them leave their cybersecurity woes behind while having some fun in the sun. That’s why we asked our users what they are most concerned about during the summer, so we can help them protect what really matters. Let’s see what they had to say.

Sharing the Fun

When it comes to vacations, we’re constantly taking and sharing snaps of amazing memories. What we don’t plan on sharing is the metadata embedded in each photo that can give away more than we intended. In fact, from our research we found that people are 3x more likely to be concerned about their Social Security number being hacked than their photos. Given the risk a compromised SSN poses for the potential of identity theft, it’s no surprise that respondents were more concerned about it. However, to keep the summer fun secure, it’s also important to keep travel photos private and only share securely.

Flying Safely and Securely

From a young age, we have been taught to keep our Social Security number close to the chest, and this is evident in how we protect SSNs. As a matter of fact, 88% of people would be seriously worried if their Social Security number was hacked. The best way to keep a Social Security number secure this summer – don’t share it when purchasing plane tickets or managing travel reservations. All you need to provide is a credit card and passport.

Making Smartphone Security #1  

While on the go, travelers are often keenly aware of how exposed they are physically when carrying around credit cards, passports, suitcases, gadgets and more. However, they also need to think about securing their digital life, particularly their handheld devices. To keep personal photos protected while traveling this summer season, smartphone security must be a top priority. With nearly 40% of respondents concerned about sensitive personal photos being hacked, jet setters need to be proactive about security, not reactive. In fact, we’re reminded of just how important this fact is as we enter the month of June, Internet Safety Month. Just like your laptop or router, it’s vital to protect the personal data stored within a smartphone.

In order to help you stay secure this season, let’s put your travel security knowledge to the test.

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