A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the Avast Red Team’s top 5 security tips for businesses. The Red Team specializes in protecting users on company-wide levels, and our key to success is the way we use offensive techniques for defensive purposes. You could say we’re always actively defending. This approach of staying on guard is beneficial not just for businesses, but also for the individual. With that in mind, I’d like to lay out some basic advice anyone can use to stay on the defensive. But while these tips can (and should) be practiced by everyone, I’m offering them now with particular concern for our senior users.
As leader of the Red Team, I cannot ignore the growing trend of cyberattacks on seniors. The National Council of Aging estimates senior citizens lose about $3 billion a year to financial scams. Senior users form a favorite target demographic because attackers bank on a general naivete to all things internet. The counter-measure here, of course, is to replace that naivete with knowledge. Here are five simple tips that will help any user stay on guard.
Our top 5 security tips for seniors
- Ignore links and attachments in emails from senders you don’t recognize
Email phishing scams are far and away the most common method attackers use to deliver malware. These tend to be from someone who pretends to know you or have a familiarity with you. Usually the email will contain a link or an attachment that you are encouraged to click. Doing so, though, could download malware onto your system. Once your profile gets infected, the attacker may use your contact list to send out more malware…from your account!
- Ignore calls from robotic or recorded services
These voice phishing scams, or “vishing” scams, are easy for attackers to cast out and see who bites. When you answer the phone, the recorded voice tells you some false information that sounds vaguely urgent, then asks you to provide some personal information to supposedly correct the situation. In reality, that personal information could be used later for identity theft. The best thing to do, as soon as you hear that recorded voice start, is hang up.
- Ignore links and attachments in text messages from numbers you don’t recognize
Like the email phishing scams, these SMS phishing scams try to get you to click on a link or download an attachment. By doing either, you open the door to malware that can hijack your personal information from your computer or device. For example, we’ve seen quite a few SMS phishing campaigns pretending to be from courier or parcel delivery companies, such as DHL or Australia Post. Even if you are expecting a delivery, be super cautious about clicking on any links within the message. You should normally be able to get the delivery tracking code and look it up on the company’s tracking web site. When the delivery notification is unexpected, definitely delete them right away.
- Ignore links and attachments on social media from profiles you don’t recognize
Again, the don’t-trust-strangers rule applies to your social media accounts, just as it does to your email account and your texts. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, or any other platform, remember that there are many fake profiles out there, created by attackers, looking for users gullible enough to become their “friend,” and ultimately open malicious links or attachments. Don’t be fooled. And while you’re at it, take a moment to adjust your social media privacy settings so that they can keep you best protected.
- Install an antivirus program on your phone and laptop
Fight fire with fire. Cyber attackers are using cutting edge technology, but it’s no stronger than today’s best antivirus tech. Avast Free Antivirus uses next-gen cybersecurity to detect and neutralize phishing attacks like those described above. To make sure you always have the latest advancements working for you, keep your antivirus up to date each time a new version is released.
Unfortunately, there are many other types of scams preying on seniors, such as romance scams and IRS or taxation office scams. But they all boil down to the same thing – a con artist trying to trick the user into giving away sensitive information or downloading malware onto their system. The simple rule here is, “Do not trust strangers on the internet.” Whether you’re a senior or the caretaker of a senior, keep this in mind whenever you are online.