Durkee: Knowledge is power when it comes to cybersecurity

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by Matthew Durkee With the recent flooding in our State, resulting financial and property losses, and the desire for normalcy, bad actors may see this as an opportunity to try to scam some of us. They will prey on our need for assistance and comfort by offering “easy ways” to receive assistance. Now is the time to be skeptical of people offering aid for a “small fee” or our personal financial information. Let us revisit what types of things these bad actors may attempt.

As technology advances, cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated and far too common. With the increasing use of technology in our daily lives, cybercrime is on the rise. 

According to the FBI Internet Crime Report, 800,944 complaints of cyber-crime were reported to the FBI by the public in 2022, and the potential total loss increased to $10.2 billion, up from $6.9 billion in 2021. 

While financial institutions are constantly working to prevent the compromise or loss of consumer information, in the end, a consumer’s data is only as secure as the precautions they take themselves. “Knowledge is power,” when it comes to protecting personal information. The more you know about cybersecurity, the more likely you will be able to spot and resist a threat and keep your personal financial information away from hackers. By taking the following steps, you can protect yourself and deter cyber threats on your personal and financial information.

Regular Account Review: It is essential to regularly review your credit card and bank statements. A hacker with your personal account information can make a small change to see if they can initially get access to your accounts.  If they do, it is likely they’ll attack again and the threat could be even more compromising. A good rule of thumb is to check your accounts online once or twice a week. Also, know your statement cycles and follow up with your credit card company and financial institution if you do not receive your statements on time. Even the most diligent consumers can fall victim to hacking and scams. Luckily, financial institutions like Community Bank are continually on the lookout for malicious security threats and fraudulent account activity. 

If you do notice unknown activity, immediately call your bank or credit card fraud center hotline and report the charges. Many institutions have a zero-liability policy to protect customers if they notify the bank. Also, many institutions make it easier for customers to keep track of their accounts by offering email or text message alerts when balances fall below a certain level or when there is a transaction over a certain amount.

Imposter Scams: With up to a billion attacks in one year, phishers are becoming more experienced at disguising their emails and text messages, making them look genuine and hard to detect. Account takeovers can start with a phishing message that appears to come from a legitimate company or financial institution. A fake email or text usually includes an urgent request, such as an account alert, payment or verification notification, or information request along with a link to click. Once the user clicks the link, they are taken to a counterfeit website and asked for personal account information like an account or credit card number, password, or even social security number. They may even be asked to log onto the impostor website using their personal login information. When the victim attempts to log into the site, the phisher monitors their credentials and immediately uses them to gain access to the legitimate website. 

Similar to phishing, an imposter can also reach out to unsuspecting consumers by calling them from what appears to be an authentic phone number, or caller ID, asking for identifying information. In these cases, scammers try to get the victim to comply with demands that ultimately allow them to forward money, install malware, or lure them to a website where they collect personal and private information.

Multifactor Authentication: A multi-step account login process that requires users to enter more information than just a password can considerably reduce the likelihood of a cybercriminal taking over your account. Enabling multifactor authentication (MFA) offers added protection by using two or more different types of factors, like a password and a code sent by text message. An MFA can also include a physical identifier or biometric, such as a fingerprint, voice or facial recognition. Taking this extra step beyond using just a password can protect your business, online purchases, bank accounts and even your identity from potential hackers. 

Secure Passwords: Strong passwords protect your electronic accounts and devices from unauthorized users while keeping sensitive personal information safe. An ideal protected password is complex, unique and lengthy. The longer and more complex the password, the less likely it is for a cyber-threat to occur. Passwords should include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols to deter hackers. Don’t use your address, birthday, or other words or numbers that can be easy for hackers to find out or guess. Especially, do not use the same password for multiple accounts, because a criminal who obtains one password can then log into each of your accounts. 

Take extra precautions for logging into bank and other financial accounts by ensuring your password is strong. Consumers should log out of financial accounts when transactions are complete, when they walk away from their computer, or put their electronic device down. Remember to also change your password regularly because the longer you use the same password, the greater the risk may be compromised. Periodically update passwords and do not recycle old passwords as it increases the likelihood of a potential cyberattack. 

With the increase in cyber threats, awareness and education are keys to preventing an attack. While cybersecurity awareness improves, the threat and sophistication of cyberattacks will continue to match that progress. To ensure your security, it’s vital to examine everything, including the sender’s email address and phone number, checking URLs, examining the tone of voice, hovering your cursor over hyperlinks to see if the web address matches the legitimate one, and checking to ensure there are no spelling or grammar errors in communications coming from a person or company. By taking extra precautions and being more sensitive to potential threats, consumers can successfully mitigate the risk of a financial and personal attack.

You trust your bank with more than your money—you trust them with your financial well-being. Not just today, but tomorrow and the many days thereafter. Our promise at Community Bank is to earn your trust at each and every step, which is why we’re honored to be recognized by Newsweek as one of America’s Most Trusted Companies and Forbes as one of America’s Best Banks for delivering on that promise.

Matthew Durkee is the New England Regional President and leads Community Bank’s team. A native Vermonter, he has been active in the local banking community for his entire 30+ year career.