Avoiding cyber security risks

Editorial Writer

Amarillo College Chief Information Officer Shane Hepler is asking the AC community to be aware of online safety. At a recent all-employee meeting, he urged the staff to help him fight internet hackers and said the college faces daily attacks.

Fraud, scams, identity theft, network intrusion and other cybercrimes are rising. Hepler says that everyone has a role to play in keeping the college safe. A common avenue for criminals is through an attack called ‘phishing’. Through the use of official-looking emails that ask recipients to navigate to a malicious website, attackers can infect your computers with malware or steal your information.

Hepler’s advice: “Do not open emails you don’t recognize.”

Basic, but incredibly smart words, as phishing emails appear to be legitimate and may request personal information or account numbers.

Another way that criminals gain access to accounts is through a process called ‘social engineering’ where hackers take time to sift through social media and other places people post information and use that to impersonate them. Be smart with what you post, either in status updates, pictures or when taking online personality quizzes. Malicious actors can use these resources to gather information to use when calling into your bank, for example, impersonating you and gaining access to your passwords using their gathered information to guess at reset and security questions. Social media is a gold mine for online crime.

Some basic tips for keeping secure on the internet and beyond: Change your passwords often, usually every three months. When choosing a secure password, try using symbols and numbers, and combining multiple words together.

Illustration by Kamden Slough | The Ranger

Keep your personal details personal. Don’t post information online that you might use as password reset questions. It might be fun posting where you went to school on your Facebook profile, but many banks use that question as a personal identifier. Criminals might be using these quizzes to gather information for an attack.

Update all of your devices and browsers. Updates usually come with incredibly important security updates. Staying up-to-date means you’re also staying secure.

Hepler told the AC employees that online safety is everyone’s responsibility. “While we have the doors locked, you have to be responsible for your key.”

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