An email comes across your inbox from a name you recognize, but don’t just click that email to open it. The subject is “the paper you requested” and there is a link to a pdf.  You don’t remember requesting any paper, but why would one of your contacts say otherwise?  Do you click the link?  Absolutely not! Since early 2020, cyber-attacks have skyrocketed.  So how do you protect yourself? 

A recent Hixcox Cyber Readiness Report stated that the number of companies attacked has jumped from 38 % to 43%. Of those businesses hit, 58% paid a ransom to the criminals just to get their computer systems back online. Scripps Health is the latest health care firm in San Diego to be hit. One local construction firm had to pay $75,000 when an employee clicked a link in an email which allowed criminals to take over the firm’s data.

Most often, the hackers get into a computer system because of a simple error on the part of an employee. Then the crook sends a message to all of the victim’s contacts posing at the victim. One common trick is for the email to say something like “here is your payment” or “your reward is here.”

Never click on any link or any attachment that you were not expecting, even if it’s from a name you recognize. If in doubt, call the sender and ask if the email is really from them. We did that last week and realized that the sender had been hacked. Luckily, none of us had clicked the email.

The first and most basic step to take to protect your personal information and your company’s data is updating all of your passwords on a regular basis. Make sure you aren’t using something simple like “cookies” or “password.” Google offers a password management system to keep all those passwords straight. Apple has a similar password key.

If you use a public computer or share one with someone else, make sure to completely log yourself out of all applications before you leave. Avoid doing anything like banking when you are on “public” WIFI, such as the Wi-Fi at the airport.

Also, keep your phone and computer updated to the latest operating systems, as the big tech players are constantly adding new patches to their firewalls to keep criminals out. Log out of your computer or restart it often, and stay up to date with hacking news. Each time one method of criminal behavior is thwarted, the criminals simply come up with another one. Vigilance against hacking is an ongoing part of our life in the tech era.