Category Archives: internet security

Downloaded FaceApp? Here’s How Your Privacy is Now Affected

If you’ve been on social media recently, you’ve probably seen some people in your feed posting images of themselves looking elderly. That’s because FaceApp, an AI face editor that went viral in 2017, is making a major comeback with the so-called FaceApp Challenge — where celebrities and others use the app’s old age filter to add decades onto their photos. While many folks have participated in the fun, there are some concerns about the way that the app operates when it comes to users’ personal privacy.

According to Forbes, over 100,000 million people have reportedly downloaded FaceApp from the Google Play Store and the app is the number one downloaded app on the Apple App Store in 121 different countries. But what many of these users are unaware of is that when they download the app, they are granting FaceApp full access to the photos they have uploaded. The company can then use these photos for their benefit, such as training their AI facial recognition algorithm. And while there is currently nothing to indicate that the app is taking photos for malicious intent, it is important for users to be aware that their personal photos may be used for other purposes beyond the original intent.

So, how can users enjoy the entertainment of apps like FaceApp without sacrificing their privacy? Follow these tips to help keep your personal information secure:

  • Think before you upload. It’s always best to err on the side of caution with any personal data and think carefully about what you are uploading or sharing. A good security practice is to only share personal data, including personal photos, when it’s truly necessary.
  • Update your settings. If you’re concerned about FaceApp having permission to access your photos, it’s time to assess the tools on your smartphone. Check which apps have access to information like your photos and location data. Change permissions by either deleting the app or changing your settings on your device.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Watch Your Webcam: Tips to Protect Your Mac From Zoom Hackers

You’ve probably heard of the popular video conferencing platform, Zoom. This platform enables its millions of users in various locations to virtually meet face to face. In an effort to enhance user experience and work around changes in Safari 12, Zoom installed a web server that allows users to enjoy one-click-to-join meetings. Unfortunately, a security researcher recently disclosed that this product feature acts as a flaw that could allow cybercriminals to activate a Mac user’s webcam without their permission.

How exactly does this vulnerability work? Cybercriminals are able to exploit a feature that allows users to send a meeting link directly to a recipient. When the recipient clicks on the link, they are automatically launched into the video conferencing software. If the user has previously installed the Zoom app onto their Mac and hasn’t turned off their camera for meetings, Zoom will auto-join the user to a conference call with the camera on. With this flaw, an attacker can send a victim a meeting link via email message or web server, allowing them to look into a victim’s room, office, or wherever their camera is pointing. It’s important to note that even if a user has deleted the Zoom app from their device, the Zoom web server remains, making the device susceptible to this vulnerability.

While the thought of someone unknowingly accessing a user’s Mac camera is creepy, this vulnerability could also result in a Denial of Service (DoS) attack by overwhelming a user’s device with join requests. And even though this patch has been successfully patched by Zoom, it’s important for users to realize that this update is not enforced by the platform. So, how can Zoom users avoid getting sucked into a potentially malicious call? Check out these security tips to stay secure on conference calls:

  • Adjust your Zoom settings. Users can disable the setting that allows Zoom to turn your camera on when joining a meeting. This will prevent a hacker from accessing your camera if you are sent a suspicious meeting link.
  • Update, update, update. Be sure to manually install the latest Zoom update to prevent DoS or other potential attacks. Additionally, Zoom will introduce an update in July that allows users to apply video preferences from their first call to all future calls. This will ensure that if a user joins their first meeting without video, this setting will remain consistent for all other calls.

And, as usual, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post Watch Your Webcam: Tips to Protect Your Mac From Zoom Hackers appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

#Verified or Phishing Victim? 3 Tips to Protect Your Instagram Account

If you’re an avid Instagram user, chances are you’ve come across some accounts with a little blue checkmark next to the username. This little blue tick is Instagram’s indication that the account is verified. While it may seem insignificant at first glance, this badge actually means that Instagram has confirmed that the account is an authentic page of a public figure, celebrity, or global brand. In today’s world of social media influencers, receiving a verified badge is desirable so other users know you’re a significant figure on the platform. However, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the appeal of being Instagram verified as a way to convince users to hand over their credentials.

So, how do cybercriminals carry out this scheme? According to security researcher Luke Leal, this scam was distributed as a phishing page through Instagram. The page resembled a legitimate Instagram submission page, prompting victims to apply for verification. After clicking on the “Apply Now” button, victims were taken to a series of phishing forms with the domain “Instagramforbusiness[.]info.” These forms asked users for their Instagram logins as well as confirmation of their email and password credentials. However, if the victim submitted the form, their Instagram credentials would make their way into the cybercriminal’s email inbox. With this information, the cybercrooks would have unauthorized access to the victim’s social media page. What’s more, since this particular phishing scam targets a user’s associated email login, hackers would have the capability of resetting and verifying ownership of the victim’s account.

Whether you’re in search of an Instagram verification badge or not, it’s important to be mindful of your cybersecurity. And with Social Media Day right around the corner, check out these tips to keep your online profiles protected from phishing and other cyberattacks:

  • Exercise caution when inspecting links. If you examine the link used for this scam (Instagramforbusiness[.]info), you can see that it is not actually affiliated with Instagram.com. Additionally, it doesn’t use the secure HTTPS protocol, indicating that it is a risky link. Always inspect a URL before you click on it. And if you can’t tell whether a link is malicious or not, it’s best to avoid interacting with it altogether.
  • Don’t fall for phony pages. If you or a family member is in search of a verified badge for their Instagram profile, make sure they are familiar with the process. Instagram users should go into their own account settings and click on “Request on verification” if they are looking to become verified. Note that Instagram will not ask for your email or password during this process, but will send you a verification link via email instead.
  • Reset your password. If you suspect that a hacker is attempting to gain control of your account, play it safe by resetting your password.

And, as usual, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home  on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Process Reimaging: A Cybercrook’s New Disguise for Malware

As of early 2019, Windows 10 is running on more than 700 million devices, including PCs, tablets, phones, and even some gaming consoles. However, it turns out the widespread Windows operating system has some inconsistencies as to how it specifically determines process image file locations on disk. Our McAfee Advanced Threat Research team decided to analyze these inconsistencies and as a result uncovered a new cyberthreat called process reimaging. Similar to process doppelganging and process hollowing, this technique evades security measures, but with greater ease since it doesn’t require code injection. Specifically, this technique affects the ability for a Windows endpoint security solution to detect whether a process executing on the system is malicious or benign, allowing a cybercrook to go about their business on the device undetected.

Let’s dive into the details of this threat. Process reimaging leverages built-in Windows APIs, or application programming interfaces, which allow applications and the operating system to communicate with one another. One API dubbed K32GetProcessImageFileName allows endpoint security solutions, like Windows Defender, to verify whether an EXE file associated with a process contains malicious code. However, with process reimaging, a cybercriminal could subvert the security solution’s trust in the windows operating system APIs to display inconsistent FILE_OBJECT names and paths. Consequently, Windows Defender misunderstands which file name or path it is looking at and can no longer tell if a process is trustworthy or not. By using this technique, cybercriminals can persist malicious processes executing on a user’s device without them even knowing it.

So, the next question is — what can Windows users do to protect themselves from this potential threat? Check out these insights to help keep your device secure:

  • Update your software. Microsoft has issued a partial fix that stops cybercriminals from exploiting file names to disguise malicious code, which helps address at least part of the issue for Windows Defender only. And while file paths are still viable for exploitation, it’s worth updating your software regularly to ensure you always have the latest security patches, as this is a solid practice to work into your cybersecurity routine.
  • Work with your endpoint security vendor. To help ensure you’re protected from this threat, contact your endpoint security provider to see if they protect against process reimaging.

And, as always, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Bargain or Bogus Booking? Learn How to Securely Plan Summer Travel

With summertime just around the corner, families are eagerly looking to book their next getaway. Since vacation is so top-of-mind during the summer months, users are bound to come across websites offering cheap deals on flights, accommodations, and other experiences and activities. With so many websites claiming to offer these “can’t-miss deals,” how do you know who to trust?

It turns out that this is a common concern among folks looking for a little summer getaway. According to our recent survey of 8,000 people across the UK, US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, and Singapore, 54% of respondents worry about their identity being stolen while booking and purchasing travel and accommodation online. However, 27% don’t check the authenticity of a website before booking their vacation online. Over half of these respondents say that it doesn’t cross their minds to do so.

These so-called “great deals” can be difficult to pass up. Unfortunately, 30% of respondents have been defrauded thanks to holiday travel deals that were just too good to be true. What’s more, 46.3% of these victims didn’t realize they had been ripped off until they arrived at their holiday rental to find that the booking wasn’t actually valid.

In addition to avoiding bogus bookings, users should also refrain from risky online behavior while enjoying their summer holidays. According to our survey, 44.5% of respondents are putting themselves at risk while traveling by not checking the security of their internet connection or willingly connecting to an unsecured network. 61% also stated that they never use a VPN, while 22% don’t know what a VPN is.

Unfortunately, travel-related attacks aren’t limited to just travelers either; hotels are popular targets for cybercriminals. According to analysis conducted by the McAfee Advanced Threat Research team, the most popular attack vectors are POS malware and account hijacking. Due to these attacks, eager vacationers have had their customer payment, credit card data, and personally identifiable information stolen. In order for users to enjoy a worry-free vacation this summer, it’s important that they are aware of the potential cyberthreats involved when booking their trips online and what they can do to prevent them.

We here at McAfee are working to help inform users of the risks they face when booking through unsecured or unreliable websites as well as when they’re enjoying some summertime R&R. Check out the following tips so you can enjoy your vacation without questioning the status of your cybersecurity:

  • Always connect with caution. If you need to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection, use a virtual private network (VPN) to help keep your connection secure.
  • Think before you click. Often times, cybercriminals use phishing emails or fake sites to lure consumers into clicking links for products or services that could lead to malware. If you receive an email asking you to click on a link with a suspicious URL, it’s best to avoid interacting with the message altogether.
  • Browse with security protection. Use a comprehensive security solution, like McAfee Total Protection, which includes McAfee WebAdvisor that can help identify malicious websites.
  • Utilize an identity theft solution. With all this personal data floating around online, it’s important to stay aware of any attempts to steal your identity. Use an identity theft solution, such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, that can help protect personally identifiable information from identity theft and fraud.

And, as always, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post Bargain or Bogus Booking? Learn How to Securely Plan Summer Travel appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Attention Graphic Designers: It’s Time to Secure Your Canva Credentials

Online graphic design tools are extremely useful when it comes to creating resumes, social media graphics, invitations, and other designs and documents. Unfortunately, these platforms aren’t immune to malicious online activity. Canva, a popular Australian web design service, was recently breached by a malicious hacker, resulting in 139 million user records compromised.

So, how was this breach discovered? The hacker, who goes by the name GnosticPlayers, contacted a security reporter from ZDNet on May 24th and made him aware of the situation. The hacker claims to have stolen data pertaining to 1 billion users from multiple websites. The compromised data from Canva includes names, usernames, email addresses, city, and country information.

Canva claims to securely store all user passwords using the highest standards via a Bcrypt algorithm. Bcrypt is a strong, slow password-hashing algorithm designed to be difficult and time-consuming for hackers to crack since hashing causes one-way encryption. Additionally, each Canva password was salted, meaning that random data was added to passwords to prevent revealing identical passwords used across the platform. According to ZDNet, 61 million users had their passwords encrypted with the Bcrypt algorithm, resulting in 78 million users having their Gmail addresses exposed in the breach.

Canva has notified users of the breach through email and ensured that their payment card and other financial data is safe. However, even if you aren’t a Canva user, it’s important to be aware of what cybersecurity precautions you should take in the event of a data breach. Check out the following tips:

  • Change your passwords. As an added precaution, Canva is encouraging their community of users to change their email and Canva account passwords. If a cybercriminal got a hold of the exposed data, they could gain access to your other accounts if your login credentials were the same across different platforms.
  • Check to see if you’ve been affected. If you’ve used Canva and believe your data might have been exposed, use this tool to check or set an alert to be notified of other potential data breaches.
  • Secure your personal data. Use a security solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection. If your information is compromised during a breach, Identity Theft Protection helps monitor and keep tabs on your data in case a cybercriminal attempts to use it.

And, as always, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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3 Tips for Protecting Against the New WhatsApp Bug

Messaging apps are a common form of digital communication these days, with Facebook’s WhatsApp being one of the most popular options out there. The communication platform boasts over 1.5 billion users – who now need to immediately update the app due to a new security threat. In fact, WhatsApp just announced a recently discovered security vulnerability that exposes both iOS and Android devices to malicious spyware.

So, how does this cyberthreat work, exactly? Leveraging the new WhatsApp bug, hackers first begin the scheme by calling an innocent user via the app. Regardless of whether the user picks up or not, the attacker can use that phone call to infect the device with malicious spyware. From there, crooks can potentially snoop around the user’s device, likely without the victim’s knowledge.

Fortunately, WhatsApp has already issued a patch that solves for the problem – which means users will fix the bug if they update their app immediately. But that doesn’t mean users shouldn’t still keep security top of mind now and in the future when it comes to messaging apps and the crucial data they contain. With that said, here are a few security steps to follow:

  • Flip on automatic updates. No matter the type of application or platform, it’s always crucial to keep your software up-to-date, as fixes for vulnerabilities are usually included in each new version. Turning on automatic updates will ensure that you are always equipped with the latest security patches.
  • Be selective about what information you share. When chatting with fellow users on WhatsApp and other messaging platforms, it’s important you’re always careful of sharing personal data. Never exchange financial information or crucial personal details over the app, as they can possibly be stolen in the chance your device does become compromised with spyware or other malware.
  • Protect your mobile phones from spyware. To help prevent your device from becoming compromised by malicious software, such as this WhatsApp spyware, be sure to add an extra layer of security to it by leveraging a mobile security solution. With McAfee Mobile Security being available for both iOS and Android, devices of all types will remain protected from cyberthreats.

And, as always, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Privacy Awareness Week 2019 – Are You In The Dark About Your Online Privacy?

If you haven’t given your online privacy much attention lately then things need to change. In our era of weekly data breaches, the ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ excuse no longer cuts it. In my opinion, ensuring your privacy is protected online is probably more important than protecting your home and car! A sloppy approach to online privacy can have devastating ramifications to your financial health, your career and even your physical wellbeing.

This week is Privacy Awareness Week in Australia – a great reminder to give our online privacy a ‘check-up’ and work out what we can do to ensure the information we share online (and who sees it) is locked down.

What Do We Need to Protect?

When we think about online privacy, we often think about protecting our password and financial data online. But it’s a little more complicated. There are 2 categories of information that we share in our online life that requires protection.

  1. Personally Identifying Information (PII) – this includes our name, birthdate, address and Medicare number
  2. Non-Personally Identifying Information – this includes the information about what we do online. It’s a combination of the websites we visit, what we buy online, our online searches and the pages we like on our social media profiles. Our online activity creates a digital folder about ourselves and many companies just love this data so they can send targeted ads your way. Ever wondered why you receive ads about holiday destinations after a few wishful holiday Google searches?

Without adequate online privacy, all the information about our online activities can be collected and analysed by third parties. In fact, data collected (legally) about you by websites can be very lucrative! Companies, known as data brokers, collect and maintain data on millions on people and charge handsomely for their services!

Why Do I Need To Worry About My Online Privacy?

Just think for a moment about some of the information that is stored about you online…

  • Your PII is stored in the background of probably every online account you have including social media, news and banking
  • Your online banking and superannuation sites contain details of all your accounts and your net worth
  • Your health and taxation records maybe accessible online which may contain sensitive information you would prefer not to be shared
  • If you haven’t disabled location services on your phone, your whereabouts can be tracked by clever parties on a daily basis
  • Your pictures and videos

While some of this information is stored without your control, there are steps you can take to tighten up access.

Now, think about your daily online activity…

  • Anything you order online via your web browser can be recorded
  • Anytime you send an email with sensitive information, there is a risk this will also be shared
  • Anytime you pay on the go using a facility like Apple Pay, your purchase will be tracked
  • Anything you search for, the articles you read, the movie tickets you buy and even your weekly online grocery order can be tracked

If this comes as a shock to you then you’re not alone. Many Aussies have been in the dark about what information is available about them online. But, don’t throw the towel in – there are strategies to tighten up your online privacy.

How To Get Your Online Privacy Under Control

There are a few simple steps you can take to lock down your valuable online information. So, make yourself a nice cuppa and let’s get to work:

  1. Manage Your Passwords

Your online passwords are as important as your house keys. In fact, in many cases, it is the only thing stopping cybercriminals from accessing our vital information that we have saved online. So, if you want to tighten up access to your online banking, your social media platforms and your favourite online shopping sites then you need to think carefully about how you manage your passwords.

Passwords need to be complex and unique with at least 8-10 characters and a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. And each of your online accounts should have a separate password which should be changed regularly. Too hard? Consider a Password Manager which creates and manages complex passwords for each of your online accounts – a complete no brainer!! McAfee’s Total Protection software includes a Password Manager which stores, auto-fills and generates unique passwords for all your online accounts. All you need to do is remember one master password! Easy!

And don’t forget, if one of your online accounts is affected by a data breach, then you need to change that password ASAP. If you have a password manager, simply have it generate another password for you.

  1. Use Public Wi-Fi With Caution

If you are serious about your online privacy then you need to use public Wi-Fi sparingly. Unsecured public Wi-Fi is a very risky business. Anything you share could easily find its way into the hands of cybercriminals. So, please avoid sharing any sensitive or personal information while using public Wi-Fi. If you travel regularly or spend the bulk of your time on the road then consider investing in a VPN. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your activity which means your login details and other sensitive information is protected. McAfee has a great VPN product called Safe Connect. An excellent insurance policy!

  1. Use 2-Factor Authentication

Adding an additional layer of security to protect yourself when accessing your online accounts is another great way of guarding your online privacy. Turn on two-factor authentication for Google, Dropbox, Facebook and whatever other site offers it. For those new to this option, this means that in addition to your password, you will need to provide another form of identification to ensure you are who you say you are. Most commonly, this is a code sent to your mobile phone or generated by a smart phone app.

  1. Keep Your Software Updated

Software updates and patches are often designed to address a security vulnerability so ALWAYS install them so the bad guys can’t take advantage of security hole in your system. If it all becomes to hard, why not automate the updates?

  1. Invest in Security Software for ALL Your Devices

Installing comprehensive security software on all your devices including laptops, tablets and smartphones adds another layer of protection to your vital online information. Check out McAfee’s Total Protection software that will ensure you and your devices are protected against viruses, malware spyware and ransomware.

  1. Consider a Search Engine that Doesn’t Track Your Every Move Online

If you would prefer that your search engines didn’t collect and store the information you enter then consider an alternative ‘privacy focussed’ search engine. Check out DuckDuckGo that doesn’t profile users or track or sell your information to third parties.

  1. Delete All Cookies

Cookies are another way your online activity can be tracked. While some are harmless and used to simply remember things about you such as your login information and language, others known as  tracking cookies remain permanently constantly gathering information about your behaviour and what you click on. So, let’s get rid of them! Head into your web browser’s Privacy settings and clean them out.

So, let’s get our online privacy under control this Privacy Awareness Week. But don’t forget about your kids and elderly relatives too! Proactively managing one’s online privacy needs to be a priority for everyone. Why not start a conversation at the dinner table? Perhaps give the family a daily privacy related task every day during Privacy Awareness Week? For example:

Monday – Clean up your passwords or set up a Password Manager

Tuesday –  Research a VPN

Wednesday – Set up 2 factor authentication

Thursday – Ensure all your software is up to date and set up auto-updates where possible

Friday – Research privacy focussed search engines and delete all cookies

Over to you mums and dads. Would love to hear how you go.

Alex xx

 

 

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Protect Your Digital Life: Why Strong Passwords Matter

Over the years, our lives have become more and more digital. Think about it: 20 years ago, no one was using banking apps and social media had just barely begun coming to fruition. Now, many of us are reliant on mobile banking to pay our bills and we check our favorite social media platforms multiple times a day. Our lives exist almost entirely online with our sensitive personal data shielded by password protection — from our financials to our official documentation, personal photos and more. With so much of our personal data relying on the strength of our online passwords, it’s vital that users stay up-to-date on the latest password security practices. As we take the time to recognize World Password Day, it’s important to think about why passwords matter and how you’re safeguarding your personal information online.

 

 

Think about all of the online data you have that is password protected: your email, your social media accounts, your online banking profile, your movie and TV streaming service, the list goes on and on. If you aren’t following best practices for password security and just one of your passwords is exposed or breached, this could potentially lead to cybersecurity turmoil. For example, an Android app that helped users find and connect to free Wi-Fi hotspots recently left its database of more than 2 million network passwords exposed. While the app claimed to only share public hotspots, many were found to be home wireless networks thanks to the precise GPS location data that was also stored in the database. Now imagine that one of the victims of this password exposure utilized the same credentials for their online banking profile. If their password ended up in the wrong hands, a cybercriminal could potentially access the user’s financial data, leading to fraudulent charges or even identity theft. As you can see, creating a strong and unique password could mean the difference between keeping your online data safe and being at risk of a cyberattack.

Many people just go through the motions when creating passwords instead of taking the time to consider what exactly their credentials are protecting. World Password Day is the perfect opportunity to be diligent about revamping passwords. Check out the following tips to take your password security to the next level:

  • See if your passwords have been exposed. Go to a site such as HaveiBeenPwned to see if your password(s) have been compromised in a breach. Change them if you find that your credentials may have been jeopardized.
  • Layer up your passwords. Passwords should always contain a variety of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Today, many systems enforce password requirements during the account set-up process to ensure password strength.
  • Choose unique passwords across all of your accounts. Many consumers utilize the same password, or variations of it, across all of their accounts. This means if a hacker discovers just one password, all personal data is suddenly at risk. Therefore, it is crucial to diversify your passcodes to ensure hackers cannot obtain access to all of your accounts at once, should one password be compromised.
  • Use a password manager. Since it can be difficult to remember multiple complex passwords, use a password manager to keep track. With password managers, you’ll only need to remember one master password, in order to access the rest. Many password managers can also generate strong passwords to utilize when creating new logins.
  • Enable two or multi-factor authentication. Two or multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security, as it requires multiple forms of verification. This reduces the risk of successful impersonation by hackers.

And, as always, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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It’s World Password Day – the Perfect Excuse to give your Passwords an Overhaul!

How much of your personal data is stored online? Well, if you are anything like the ‘average Jo’ – the answer is a lot! In 2019, the vast majority of us bank and shop online, have official documentation stored online, have all sorts of personal information stored in our emails and let’s not forget about our photos and videos.

And the scary thing – the only thing that is stopping cybercriminals from accessing our vital information that is saved online is our passwords.

Today is World Password Day – a perfect opportunity to give our password strategy a health check.  Because if we are serious about protecting our vital data that is stored online then we need to get SUPER serious about managing our passwords!

So, let’s give your passwords an overhaul. Why not schedule some time in your calendar to ensure your passwords are in the best shape? Here are my top tips on what you can do today to ensure you are doing all you can to protect your private online data.

How To Give Your Passwords A Health Check:

1. Check To See Whether Your Passwords Have Been Exposed

The first step is to see whether your passwords have been compromised in a data breach. Check out  www.haveibeenpwned.com.au to see whether cybercriminals have already discovered your passwords. If so, then they need to be changed wherever they are used ASAP.

2. Commit to Not Using Common Passwords

Using common passwords such as ‘password’, ‘123456’ or ‘qwerty’ is quite frankly, a waste of time. It would take cybercriminals a matter of seconds to unlock your online banking data. Also avoid using simple personal details within your passwords such as your birthday, name or kids and pet names as a quick scan of your social media accounts would allow cybercriminals to find this in just seconds. Always make your passwords random and obscure. Why not consider a nonsensical sentence?

3. Add Numbers and Symbols to Your Passwords

When you are setting up a new online account, many organisations will require you to add a number or symbol to your proposed password to give it additional ‘password strength’. Passwords that include a variety of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols are far harder to crack so get creative and layer up your passwords.

4. Ensure Every Password Is Unique

Many people use the same password across all of their online accounts. And while this makes life easier, it increases your risk of your vital online data being compromised big time. Remember, if a hacker discovers just one of your passwords – and it’s the only one you use – all of your online personal information is at risk! Therefore, it is crucial to ensure all your passwords are different! I know, it sounds like a lot of work and brain power!

5. Simplify Your Life with a Password Manager

If the idea of creating individual complex passwords for each of your online accounts – oh, and changing them every 2 months, is giving you palpitations, then I have a solution – a password manager!

McAfee’s Total Protection includes Password Manager, which stores, auto-fills and even generates unique passwords. Creating and remembering (!) complex password for each online account is taken care off. All you need to do is remember one master password in order to access the rest of the passwords! And if there is a data breach, it’s super easy to quickly change a password too.

6. Set up Two-Factor Authentication Where Possible

If you have the option to enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication with any of your online accounts, then do it!! In simple terms, this will mean that you need to provide more than one way of identifying yourself before gaining access to your account. Often it is your password plus a code sent to your smartphone or even your fingerprint. It’s an absolute no-brainer as it adds another layer of security making it harder to cybercriminals to access your vital online data.

Now, if you are thinking about skipping out of your password overhaul, then please think again! Passwords are the first line of defence to protect your vital online data from cybercriminals. So, put the kettle on and make today the day!

Till next time!

Alex xx

 

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809 Million Records Left Exposed: How Users Can Protect Their Data

It’s no secret that technological advancements and online threats are directly proportional to each other. So now more than ever, it’s imperative that users prioritize the security of their digital presence, especially in the face of advanced malware attacks and massive data leaks. Speaking of the latter — less than two months after the Collection #1 data breach exposed 773 million email addresses, it seems we have another massive data dump in our midst. Last week, researchers discovered a 150-gigabyte database containing 809 million records exposed by the email validation firm, Verifications.io.

You may be wondering how Verifications.io had so much data left to be exposed. Most people have heard of email marketing, but very few realize that these companies often vet user email addresses to ensure their validity. Enter Verifications.io. This company serves as a way email marketing firms can outsource the extensive work involved with validating mass amounts of emails and avoid the risk of having their infrastructure blacklisted by spam filters. Verifications.io was entrusted with a lot of data provided by email marketing firms looking to streamline their processes, creating an information-heavy database.

This unusual data trove contains tons of sensitive information like names, email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, gender, date of birth, personal mortgage amounts, interest rates, social media accounts, and characterizations of people’s credit scores. While the data doesn’t contain Social Security Numbers or credit card information, that amount of aggregated data makes it much easier for cybercriminals to run new social engineering scams or expand their target audience. According to security researcher Troy Hunt, owner of HaveIBeenPwned, 35% of the data exposed by Verifications.io is new to his database. With that said, it was the second largest data dump added in terms of email addresses to Hunt’s website, which allows users to check whether their data has been exposed or breached.

Upon discovery, the firm was made aware of the incident. And while proper security measures were taken, users can take various steps themselves to protect their information in the event of largescale data exposure. Check out the following tips:

  • Be vigilant when monitoring your personal and financial data. A good way to determine whether your data has been exposed or compromised is to closely monitor your online accounts. If you see anything fishy, take extra precautions by updating your privacy settings, changing your password, or using two-factor authentication.
  • Use strong, unique passwords. Make sure to use complex passwords for each of your individual accounts, and never reuse your credentials across different platforms. It’s also a good idea to update your passwords on a consistent basis to further protect your data.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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How to Steer Clear of Tax Season Scams

*This blog contains research discovered by Elizabeth Farrell

It’s that time of year again – tax season! Whether you’ve already filed in the hopes of an early refund or have yet to start the process, one thing is for sure: cybercriminals will certainly use tax season as a means to get victims to give up their personal and financial information. This time of year is advantageous for malicious actors since the IRS and tax preparers are some of the few people who actually need your personal data. As a result, consumers are targeted with various scams impersonating trusted sources like the IRS or DIY tax software companies. Fortunately, every year the IRS outlines the most prevalent tax scams, such as voice phishing, email phishing, and fake tax software scams. Let’s explore the details of these threats.

So, how do cybercriminals use voice phishing to impersonate the IRS? Voice phishing, a form of criminal phone fraud, uses social engineering tactics to gain access to victims’ personal and financial information. For tax scams, criminals will make unsolicited calls posing as the IRS and leave voicemails requesting an immediate callback. The crooks will then demand that the victim pay a phony tax bill in the form of a wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift card. In one case outlined by Forbes, victims received emails in their inbox that allegedly contained voicemails from the IRS. The emails didn’t actually contain any voicemails but instead directed victims to a suspicious SharePoint URL. Last year, a number of SharePoint phishing scams occurred as an attempt to steal Office 365 credentials, so it’s not surprising that cybercriminals are using this technique to access taxpayers’ personal data now as well.

In addition to voice phishing schemes, malicious actors are also using email to try and get consumers to give up their personal and financial information. This year alone, almost 400 IRS phishing URLs have been reported. Even back in December, we saw a surge of new email phishing scams trying to fool consumers into thinking the message was coming from the IRS or other members of the tax community. In a typical email phishing scheme, scammers try to obtain personal tax information like usernames and passwords by using spoofed email addresses and stolen logos. In many cases, the emails contain suspicious hyperlinks that redirect users to a fake site or PDF attachments that may download malware or viruses. If a victim clicks on these malicious links or attachments, they can seriously endanger their tax data by giving identity thieves the opportunity to steal their refund. What’s more, cybercriminals are also using subject lines like “IRS Important Notice” and “IRS Taxpayer Notice” and demanding payment or threatening to seize the victim’s tax refund.

Cybercriminals are even going so far as to impersonate trusted brands like TurboTax for their scams. In this case, DIY tax preparers who search for TurboTax software on Google are shown ads for pirated versions of TurboTax. The victims will pay a fee for the software via PayPal, only to have their computer infected with malware after downloading the software. You may be wondering, how do victims happen upon this malicious software through a simple Google search? Unfortunately, scammers have been paying to have their spoofed sites show up in search results, increasing the chances that an innocent taxpayer will fall victim to their scheme.

Money is a prime motivator for many consumers, and malicious actors are fully prepared to exploit this. Many people are concerned about how much they might owe or are predicting how much they’ll get back on their tax refund, and scammers play to both of these emotions. So, as hundreds of taxpayers are waiting for a potential tax return, it’s important that they navigate tax season wisely. Check out the following tips to avoid being spoofed by cybercriminals and identity thieves:

  • File before cybercriminals do it for you. The easiest defense you can take against tax seasons schemes is to get your hands on your W-2 and file as soon as possible. The more prompt you are to file, the less likely your data will be raked in by a cybercriminal.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report. FYI – you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the major bureaus once a year. So, make it a habit to request a copy of your file every three to four months, each time from a different credit bureau. That way, you can keep better track of and monitor any suspicious activity and act early if something appears fishy.
  • Beware of phishing attempts. It’s clear that phishing is the primary tactic crooks are leveraging this tax season, so it’s crucial you stay vigilant around your inbox. This means if any unfamiliar or remotely suspicious emails come through requesting tax data, double check their legitimacy with a manager or the security department before you respond. Be wary of strange file attachment names such as “virus-for-you.doc.” Remember: the IRS only contacts people by snail mail, so if you get an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, stay away.
  • Watch out for spoofed websites. Scammers have extremely sophisticated tools that help disguise phony web addresses for DIY tax software, such as stolen company logos and site designs. To avoid falling for this, go directly to the source. Type the address of a website directly into the address bar of your browser instead of following a link from an email or internet search. If you receive any suspicious links in your email, investigating the domain is usually a good way to tell if the source is legitimate or not.
  • Consider an identity theft protection solution. If for some reason your personal data does become compromised, be sure to use an identity theft solution such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which allows users to take a proactive approach to protect their identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep their identities personal and secured.

And, as always, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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