How can you prevent a hack?

Cyber and IT expert Jeff Birner said no one is safe when it comes to cybercrimes.
Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 11:25 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Those who have not yet had their online accounts hacked or their identity stolen should count themselves lucky, because every 32 seconds, a hacker attacks someone online. But there are some things they can do to fight an unseen villain, according to cyber and IT expert Jeff Birner.

Birner said no one is safe when it comes to cybercrimes.

“I think everyone needs to be more aware of the dangers of being online,” he said.

Phishing scams, internet fraud, identity theft, ransomware, and malware are all on the menu of what can be served up by hackers when they are trying to get a person’s money or information, Birner said. It’s more common than one might think.

“One of the ways these scammers or hackers get into our lives is because they send out millions and millions and millions of emails just waiting for someone to reply,” he said.

Be cautious. When a new email or text message arrives and it includes something that can be tapped or clicked, the instinct is to click. Birner said to think before hitting that link or attachment.

“A lot of times we fall victim to curiosity,” Birner said. “It could be an invoice, it could be a free tv, iPad, free phone, and you want to click on it so bad. Do not click on any website or any links or attachments that you are not expecting.”

Relatively new in the world of cybercrime is “smishing.” Birner said scammers send fake text messages to trick people into giving them their personal information — things like passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could gain access to an email, bank, or other account, or they could sell that information to other scammers.

“It’s fairly new, but it is happening every single day,” Birner said. “Don’t click on the link on your phone. "

In today’s tech-dependent world, almost everyone searches or purchases something on the internet, and this can easily lead to cybercrime. The internet is full to the brim with fraudulent websites with scammers eager to gain access to a person’s personal and financial information.

“Don’t click on a website this is not verified,” Birner said.

According to Birner, the simplest way to check for a verified website is to click on the URL and look for a “HTTP” or “HTTPS” tag. “HTTPS” is a more secure protocol. Browsers such as Google will notify a user immediately if a site has been verified. If they issue a warning that the site may not be secure, heed that warning.

Hackers will also use details from old accounts to learn more about a person, Birner warned. People should take steps to regularly delete their Google search history, because the less hackers can find, the better.

“If you have an old email address that you are no longer using, whether it be from Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail or wherever, go ahead and delete that email,” Birner said.

Turning on multi factor or two factor authentication can also help in the war against cyber-attacks. It may add an extra step or two when trying to log on, but Birner said it’s very effective in protecting online accounts. He said a password manager can also help create strong and unique passwords.

“Change passwords regularly,” Birner said. “That is a key to everyone’s safety.”

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