I know you’ve probably heard this before: When you’re online, don’t click something unless you know it’s from someone or something that you recognize. But there’s a reason that it’s important to repeat this. Clicking unknown links is STILL one of the most common forms of security breaches. It can lead to everything from compromises to stolen information. And sure, spammers are getting craftier in their ways to disguise messages. So what are some of the most common forms of “fake messages” that are going on right now, and what’s the best way to spot the scam?
A common thing to be aware of is that some scammers look at what information is available about you online. If your email address, job title, websites you like, etc. is online, then there is ample opportunity for a scammer to craft something that is customized to get your attention. Your social media leaves you somewhat vulnerable because of the amount of information available online. But it’s more than just what you share. We receive all kinds of messages through applications like Facebook, Email, Text, WhatsApp, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and they all allow links to be shared. Be cautious about who you connect with, as it can be easy for someone to create a fake profile. If you receive unusual messages from people you know through these applications, talk with the person that sends you a message and verify they did send it. If your friend on Facebook posts something such as “This video is hilarious, check it out….” and it doesn’t seem like something they would post, you might want to be cautious before clicking.
Criminals are always coming up with new ways to spread viruses and malware for profit. Some criminals can get their websites listed high on a Google Search. They can take advantage of big items happening in the world, like the Olympics or tsunamis, and offer special insight that you can’t find anywhere else. Some targeted online ads can also be malware ridden, such as when criminals run infected advertisements on legitimate mainstream sites such as on recognizable media networks. There’s even a new ransomware scenario where you can free your “ransomed” computer files if you will connect some of your friends to the ransomware provider. (You can read more about how that works here.)
When risk is always possible, how do you avoid getting caught in something that can compromise your system? Sometimes you can use your browser to hover over a link to see if the link’s domain matches, but now with Cloud Services it can be hard to tell if a link is fake. Try verifying legitimacy as much as you can and make sure you are updating your browser regularly. Google Chrome does a good job of auto updating itself. It also helps to have an antivirus that offers protection while browsing the web, like Vipre Antivirus. And overall, the best advice is when in doubt, there’s probably a reason to be cautious. Reach out to Merit Technologies if you are wary of click hazards!