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For many consumers, the month of October elicits excitement over changing leaves, pumpkin spice lattes and dressing up as a favorite superhero. However, this month also serves to raise awareness of masked combatants of a much more formidable sort: online scammers.  October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and with the incredible amount of information our society entrusts to the internet, few topics are more important than knowing how to keep your personal and financial information safe online.  Here are some quick tips for both individuals and businesses on how to battle the threat of online scammers and malware.

  • Keep your software updated. The older your software is, the easier it is for someone to hack into your computer.  Software updates are usually automatic, but it is a good idea to check on your software status to make sure.
  • Keep your Wi-Fi router secure. Changing your password from time to time can help keep hackers from accessing your router.  It may be beneficial, especially to businesses, to invest in antivirus and anti-malware software.
  • Watch what you click on. Never click on websites or emails that seem suspicious.  Clicking on the wrong link could open the door for a scammer to infiltrate your computer or other device.  Hackers will often mask a fake web address (URL) with a commonplace domain name to trick you.  One good way to sniff out these fraudulent addresses is to look for spelling or grammatical errors. It’s also wise to hover your cursor over email addresses—if the email is a series of letters and numbers, delete it.
  • Back up your files. Copying your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage is one of the best ways to make sure you don’t lose anything in the case of a virus or malware.
  • Use strong passwords. Your password should not be 12345.  It should be long and complex, consisting of at least twelve characters, numbers, letters and symbols, both uppercase and lowercase letters.  When possible, use multi-factor authentication.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. When using your computer in a public space, such as a coffee shop, always be wary with the information you have on your screen.  You never know who is around you, and could be inadvertently giving away private information to a hacker.  Make sure not to read aloud your bank account or credit card information and be careful not to make information like this easily readable on your screen.

More information on cyber safety for consumers and businesses can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/data-privacy-and-cybersecurity

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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