Lockdown scams continue

As if investors didn’t have enough to think about, they now have to deal with growing numbers of cyberattacks targeting them and the genuine financial-services companies with whom they may do business.  Sadly, the fact that these attacks spiked with the Coronavirus does not necessarily mean that they will die down as life returns to normal, still less that they will die off.  Investors will, therefore, need to be aware of the danger and are advised to take steps to protect themselves.  Here are some tips.

Secure your home network

Make sure your home WiFi is secure and that you have taken appropriate precautions to ensure the security of any “smart” devices you use.  As a minimum, ensure that default settings and passwords are updated.

Make sure your computers and mobile devices have appropriate protection

Although the main operating systems (both desktop and mobile) all offer some form of in-built security, it’s advisable to boost this by installing an anti-malware product from a proper cybersecurity company.  You can get some very decent options for free and there are paid-for options to suit different budgets.  Ideally, look for an option which has an ad-blocker as adverts are increasingly being used to spread malware.  This strategy is known as “malvertising”.

You might also want to consider signing up for a virtual private network.  VPN services essentially compensate for any deficiencies in a network’s security.  They may be useful for home users who aren’t particularly technical and hence aren’t confident that they have secured their WiFi.  They can be invaluable for people who frequently use mobile devices outside the home and want or need to use WiFi rather than mobile data.

As an added point, be careful about charging mobile devices outside the home.  It’s relatively unusual for charging hardware to be compromised, but it does happen.  Try to be prepared with power-banks and if you’re travelling bring along an extension cable to act as a buffer between you and any power outlets.

Keep your operating systems and apps up-to-date

Installing updates can be a pain, particularly when they are major updates.  Out-of-date software is, however, a major security threat on both computers and mobile devices and hence needs to be addressed promptly.

Take a zero-trust approach to all communications

This may sound harsh, but the key point to remember is that even people who are sincere in their intentions may have been misled themselves.  You should, therefore, check and double-check anything and everything relating to your money and/or your personal information to ensure you are clear on who is asking and why they want to know.

If you are using a robust anti-malware product, you can have it filter written messages before you even receive them.  With the right product, this can include not just emails, but social-media messages and also text messages.  Be aware, however, that no reputable cybersecurity company will ever claim that their products offer 100% protection, so you need to double-check everything yourself.

Look closely at the sender in an email/social message and be aware that it’s possible to disguise the sender in a text message.  If you see links with strange characters in them (basically anything other than alphanumeric characters), then you’re likely to be seeing an encoded link which should be ignored.  Links embedded in email texts should also be treated with great suspicion as should short links in emails or social media messages.  Use an expander to see what they are before you decide whether or not to click on them.

Never drop your guard just because a website passes preliminary checks.  If it’s asking you for any sort of data, including login data, or to make a payment, then double-check it by going to whois.net and seeing who is registered as owning the domain.