UVa Offers Tips on Internet Safety

October 8, 2012

October is national Cyber Security Awareness Month.

As the country becomes more reliant on the internet, the exposure to digital threats increases, too.

The University of Virginia's Information Security, Policy and Records Management Office is trying to keep the community safer online by offering security presentations throughout the month.

At a presentation Monday morning, information security analyst Karen McDowell suggested using at least one anti-virus and two anti-malware programs.

She says anti-virus alone is not enough to take on cyber criminals.

"Hackers are much more sophisticated now," said McDowell. "They can go over or under the radar of the anti-virus as easily as you and I drive over a speed bump in a parking lot."

McDowell says, as internet users became more aware about not clicking on unfamiliar messages in their email, hackers had to come up with a new plan.

"It's a cat and mouse game. They had to devise a better method of reaching us and social engineering us into clicking," McDowell said. "So, they created spear phishing attacks."

Spear phishing is when hackers do their homework to create highly-targeted messages, tricking people into entering their personal information.

Once they are in, McDowell says hackers can do major damage.

"They can work their way up the food chain, so to speak, and take all of your data, get into your bank accounts," she said. "They can also affect your computer in such a way that, when you go to work, you infect the network you're on."

She says if you have any doubts about the source of the email, do not click on it.

Another way to protect yourself online is never accepting a download offered from a different website.

McDowell says, if you're on YouTube and a message pops up saying you need to download a program like Adobe Flash, never download it from YouTube. She says you should always go to the program's official website and download it from there.

McDowell says the first and easiest step in making sure you are cyber safe is using a different password for every log in.

That way, if a hacker gets access to one account, your other accounts should be okay.

McDowell will share more tips at two cyber security sessions later this month. The presentations are free and open to the public.

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WHAT: Security Awareness Presentations
WHO: UVa.'s Information Security, Policy, and Records Office
WHEN: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Thursday, October 25, 2012 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Kaleidoscope Room in Newcomb Hall, UVa.


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