October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.  Here are some tips from the State Department of  Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and from one of our newsletter editors:

1) ​​Use caution on public networks. If you are using a public Wi-Fi hotspot to connect to your personal accounts on a mobile device, limit the types of business you conduct, and shield your typing from prying eyes.  Hold off on using online banking websites or sites that require sensitive personal information until you get home.

2) ​​“Ransomware” is a particularly nasty type of computer virus that can lock up your system and files until you pay the offenders a ransom. The message that takes over your screen may falsely claim to be from the FBI or the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

You may have no choice but to pay the ransom, but if you do pay a ransom to “unlock” your computer, your system will still likely be carrying some form of malware. The federal Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) recommends that victims not pay any money or provide personal info to the criminals to free up their system. Instead, contact a local, trusted computer tech service for help. (As a reminder: SAIL has vetted computer support technicians to help with these types of questions and issues.)

3) ​​Phone calls claiming that your computer has a “serious problem”.  Some claim to be from Microsoft technical support.  These are always scams – they typically direct the potential victim to visit a web site that ​​will infect their computer.

4)​​ Emails or phone calls purporting to be from a government agency (IRS, State Court), claiming that you owe them moneyDelete such emails and do not open any attachments from them.  Such agencies will almost always contact you using the US Postal Service on official matters.

5) Make sure you have a​ ​trustworthy​ ​anti-virus​ ​product (e.g., Symantec, Kaspersky, McAfee, etc.) installed and that you keep it up to date.  Charter communications, TDS, AT&T provide one for free with their Internet service, and other internet service providers may, as well.