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The Future of Work: Being Successful in the COVID Era and Beyond

Working from home is no longer something some of us can get away with some of the time. It’s become essential for our health and safety. So, what does the future of work look like in a post-COVID world? We asked some of our cybersecurity and tech experts for their...

2020’s Most (and Least) Cyber-Secure States

For the past several years, Webroot and its partners have conducted a series of studies aimed at better understanding the attitudes, perspectives, and behaviors related to cyber hygiene in United States. This helps users determine which behaviors put them most at risk...

Staying Cyber Resilient During a Pandemic

We’re all thinking about it, so let’s call it out by name right away. The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is a big deal. For many of us, the structure of our lives is changing daily; and those of us who are capable of doing our work remotely are likely doing so more than...

5 Security Tips for Setting Up a New Device

The last thing you want to do when you get a new computer, mobile device, or tablet is spend a lot of time setting it up. But like any major appliance, these devices are something you want to invest a little time setting up properly. Often, they’re not cheap. And you...

5 ways to reduce risky habits online

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

After surveying more than 10,000 people in 50 states about their cybersecurity habits, we wound up with some pretty surprising results. Like the fact that tech experts demonstrate riskier behaviors than average Americans. But the most significant result of all was the fact that most Americans are more confident than they should be when it comes practicing good cyber hygiene. So, we thought this would be a good opportunity to highlight a few of the riskiest behaviors from the report and suggest ways to correct them and minimize your chances of falling for a cyberattack.

Small business owners beware

  • The problem – It’s not easy being a home-based business owner. Also known as very small businesses (VSBs), they’re often too busy and stretched thin just running their businesses. They often lack the time and resources to do everything they should to protect their important business files from online threats.
  • Risky habits – Around 80% of VSB owners use the same device for both work and personal use. In addition, 71% use the same password for their personal and business accounts, putting both their personal life and company at risk.
  • The fix Owning separate devices for personal and small business use can be cost-prohibitive. But you can enforce better security by partitioning business files on your hard drive and creating a secure password to access those files. Make sure that password is different from any you’re using for personal use. Again, easier said than done in today’s world of password proliferation. If you’re struggling keeping track of all your passwords, consider using a password management app, especially for business files.

Knowing is half the battle

  • The problem – There is a gap between awareness and real understanding of cyber-related attacks. Most Americans can confidently explain phone scams but are not as equipped to explain malware or phishing. This indicates that Americans may not be as prepared to confront risks as they think.
  • Risky habits – Americans who never read the news are 70% less likely to recognize malware, phishing, ransomware or crypto-mining, and 51% less likely to be able to confidently explain these risks. Compare this with 89% of Americans who consistently consume technology news and can confidently explain common cybersecurity risks.
  • The fix Not everyone can afford security awareness training, but if you’re a business, consider the cost and consequences of a data breach to your business. Regular security awareness training can significantly increase your ability to identify and prevent a malware or phishing attack. If you’re a consumer or VSB owner, you can easily find free sources of cybersecurity news (like this one!). As the report shows, being a regular reader of tech news can significantly raise your awareness and reduce your risk.

Digital defense and immunity

  • The problem – One in five Americans say they’ve been impacted by malware in the past year. While 61% of Americans say they’ve not been impacted, 18% aren’t sure. And with only 32% of Americans who feel they understand cyber-related attacks, it’s likely that many more have been impacted and just don’t know it.
  • Risky habit – Many businesses and users haven’t updated their defenses. They haven’t updated their antivirus protection to include cloud-based threat intelligence, AI and machine-learning (ML). Or they’re failing to install necessary patches to plug holes in applications. And they’re still running obsolete operating systems, like Windows 7 or Server 2008, leaving them highly exposed.
  • The fix – For today’s advanced threats, you need multiple layers of protection, including advanced antivirus as well as backup. Having just one of these layers is not enough. Perimeter protection with AI/ML functionality is critical for identifying polymorphic code that changes with each device it seeks to infect. Backup is essential for mitigating phishing attacks and disaster scenarios. Cybercriminals can also identify outdated operating systems. So, it’s worth the extra cost to update them, even if the hardware they’re running on is still functioning normally.

Identity theft

  • The problem – Poor cybersecurity often leads to identity theft. Failing to wipe a device before discarding it is one problem. So is sharing personal information on social media and video streaming sites. The more hackers know about you, the easier it is for them to impersonate you online.
  • Risky habits – A quarter of Americans have had their identity stolen, including 8% who have been a victim of identity theft more than once. Twice as many people who use mobile banking apps have been victims compared with those who don’t. Across industries, those in technology, banking and automotive are most likely to become victims of identity theft.
  • The fix – Cover your tracks wherever you go. Erase the contents on a device before discarding it. Beware of the personal information you reveal on social media. And consider using a bank’s website rather than its app for personal banking.

Something phishy

  • The problem – We knew phishing was a problem. In fact, it may be even bigger than our results indicate. A lot of users don’t know how to identify phishing scams. You can’t protect yourself from threats you don’t see coming.
  • Risky habits – According to the report, 36% of respondents claim to have fallen for a phishing scam. But more enlightening is that only 35% claim to know how to identify a phishing attack. Similar to the lack of understanding about cyber-related attacks in general, the report seems to indicate that phishing is far more prevalent than the data indicate.
  • The fix Learn the tricks of the phishing trade, like bogus URLs and emails that ask you to confirm personal and banking information. Remember, bank logos can be easily faked. And banks won’t typically reach out to you for information they already have on file. If someone claiming to be from a bank contacts you by phone, call them back on an authentic customer service number from one of your banking statements.

Where to learn more

Want to read the complete 2020 state-by-state results? You can download a copy here. If you have any questions about improving your cyber security habits, feel free to reach out to us.

Why You Need More than Built-In Antivirus Protection

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

Most major tech blogs have run some variation of the following headline in recent months: Is it worth paying for an antivirus solution anymore?

The insinuation, of course, is that built in antivirus solutions for Mac and Windows machines have progressed to such a point that it’s no longer worth reinforcing them with a paid solution.

While it’s sure to generate clicks, many of the answers from tech writers are either convoluted or hedged to the point of not really providing an answer. Let’s explore the question more here.

The state of built-in security

Even our own experts will join third-party voices in admitting that built-in solutions like Windows Defender Security Center (previously Windows Defender) have improved significantly in terms of effective malware protection.

“Windows Defender has come a long way since the days of Windows XP and Windows 7,” says Webroot security analyst Tyler Moffitt. “It’s better than we’ve ever seen. But it’s still not enough.”

PC Magazine lead analyst Neil Rubenking recently said much the same, writing “Windows Defender’s own developers seem to consider it a Plan B, rather than a main solution. If you install a third-party antivirus, Windows Defender goes dormant, so as not to interfere.”

While many built-in antivirus solutions do reasonably well at turning away well-known strains of malware, it’s the new, sophisticated variations that tend to have success outsmarting them.

“Top-tier campaigns like Bitpaymer and Ryuk ransomware, or Trickbot and dridex Trojans—these are all going to get past a lot of built-in antivirus software.”

Evasive scripts are another source of trouble for much built-in security software. This newly common type of attack relies on a user clicking on a link in a “malspam” email, which then downloads a malicious payload. Interfaces like Command Line and PowerShell are often used to launch these attacks. If those terms are unfamiliar, it’s simply important to remember that they are script-based and regularly evade built-in security.

“There is a growing trend that many people feel that they don’t need any security software on their computers and that out-of-the-box security is enough,” says Moffitt. “The reality is that it’s not enough and built-in software has proven time and time again that it will be beaten by malware.”

What you really need from your online security

First off, multi-layered security. Traditional malware isn’t the only type of threat to watch out for nowadays. In addition to the script-based attacks mentioned above, mal-vertising campaigns are frequently launched from legitimate sites using  exploits in runtimes like Java, Silverlight and flash. Drive-by downloads and pop-up ads can secretly install crypto miners and malicious programs on a machine without a user knowing it, some miners don’t even need to download, but your browser will be hijacked and max out CPU to mine cryptocurrency. And phishing campaigns are becoming increasingly favored by cybercriminals based on their cost-effectiveness.

“While free solutions offer better security than most built-in solutions, you can’t beat premium solutions that utilize multiple layers of security and are backed by cutting-edge technologies like massive-scale machine learning and contextual analysis engines,” says Moffitt.

What else should you look for in an antivirus solution for the home? Here are a couple features:

  • Something lightweight—By that, we mean something that doesn’t take up a lot of memory or resources on your machine. Gamers should especially insist on this quality from an antivirus, but it should appeal to a broader market as well. “This is especially useful if you’re using your own devices to work from home during the pandemic and are worried that security solutions would slow your machines down,” says Moffitt.
  • Customer service—Something you’re unlikely to get from a built-in provider. It’s hard to underestimate the value of a dedicated team standing by to help you troubleshoot if something goes wrong. Especially if tech isn’t your sweet spot, you don’t want to commit to long periods of waiting for a response from a global tech giant, or worse, no support team at all.
  • A VPN for privacy—This is especially important if working from home is your new normal. “Not only are VPNs a great way to add a layer of protection by filtering out malicious webpages like phishing, but they are also a must if you are handling customer information for work,” says Moffitt. Making sure that critical data is protected at rest and in transit could help shield your company from major data security compliance fines.

It’s no surprise that we advocate not relying on built-in antivirus protection to safeguard your data and devices. But our concerns aren’t unfounded. We’ve simply seen too many fails to protect at the level they promise. Expect more from your online security solutions and strengthen your digital fitness, today.

Poor Password Practices: The Curse of the Cybersecurity Risk Index Score

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

Your password passing habit may not be as be as harmless as you think. And yes, that includes Netflix login info too.

That’s one finding to come out of our newly released study of 2020’s Most (and Least) Cyber-Secure States. In this year’s analysis of the cyber readiness of all 50 U.S. states, and in partnership with Wakefield Research, we created a “Cyber Risk Hygiene Index” based on 10 metrics meant to measure individual and state-level cyber resilience against adverse online events.

If you’re unfamiliar with the report, you can read an introduction here.

Unfortunately for many Americans, two of those cyber hygiene metrics involved questions about their password habits:

  • Do you avoid sharing passwords with others?
  • Do you avoid reusing passwords?

Now, these questions weren’t the only reason no American received a passing grade on our Cyber Risk Hygiene Index, or that no state scored higher than a D, but they didn’t help. In all, the report found that more than one-third (34%) of Americans admit to sharing passwords and login credentials with others. Nearly half (49%) report having more accounts than passwords, meaning passwords are being reused across accounts.

Perhaps even more troubling is the finding that sharing passwords for streaming services—that famously widespread and supposedly benign new-age habit—has a worrying correlation: Americans who share passwords for streaming services (38%) are twice as likely to say they have had their identity stolen than those who do not (18%).

This is alarming because sharing and reusing passwords is especially dangerous during this golden age of phishing attacks. It means that, as soon as a cybercriminal achieves success in one phishing attack, those pinched credentials are likely to work for several other popular sites. A single successful phishing expedition could yield catches on banking sites, credit card applications, online marketplaces, and in a host of other potentially lucrative instances.

Even by sharing passwords with those a smidge less than trustworthy—or just careless—you’re increasing your attack surface area. Now that network of individuals who now have access to your accounts are susceptible to giving your information away if they take the bait in a phishing attack.

“Instead of giving away the keys to the guest room when you share passwords, it’s more like giving away keys to the castle if they are reused across multiple accounts,” says Webroot threat analyst Tyler Moffitt, “you could begiving away the keys to the whole kingdom if that’s the only password you use.”

More password facts from the report

  • Tech Experts, one of the riskiest categories of users studied in our report, are more likely to share passwords (66%) than the average American (44%). Clearly, we at Webroot are in no position to point fingers.
  • On brand, 66 percent of so-called “Mile Markers” refrained from sharing passwords, compared to 63 percent for the average American. This group scored the highest on our index and is defined by having progressed through life markers such as earning a degree, owning a home, or having children.
  • Home-based Very Small Businesses (VSBs) are less likely to work with a dedicated IT team. As a result, they are more likely to use their personal devices for work and share passwords. Of these, 71 percent use the same passwords for home and business accounts, potentially cross contaminating their work and personal lives with the same security gaps.
  • By generation, Gen Z is most likely to share passwords (56%), followed by Millennials (47%), Gen X (33%), and Boomers (19%).

How to address poor password practices

In terms of a personal password policy, it’s important to set yourself up for success. Yes, it’s true the amount of passwords one is responsible for can be dizzying, 191 per business according to one popular study.

That, and the parameters for creating a sound password seemingly grow more complex by the day. It used to be enough just to have a password. But now, they must be x characters long, contain one number and one special characters and so-on… And did we mention we recommend it be a passphrase, not a traditional password?

You get the gist.

That’s why our single strongest piece of advice to users looking to upgrade their cyber resilience is to use a password manager. This allows you to create long, alphanumeric and otherwise meaningless passwords without the need to keep tabs on them all.

After you’ve created a strong bank of passwords, managed through a password management service, supplement your security by adding two-factor authentication (2FA). Measures like 2FA pair your login credentials—something you know—with something you have, like a biometric feature or a mobile phone. This will ensure lifting your password (a unique one for each account, no doubt) isn’t even enough to crack your account.

“Put simply, an account simply isn’t as secure as it could be without 2FA,” says Moffitt. “And that means your credit card info, home address, or bank accounts aren’t as safe as they could be.”

No more reusing passwords. And, hopefully, no more sharing passwords. But that part’s up to you. You just have to ask yourself, is Netflix access worth having your identity stolen?

Mental Health and Mindful Tech

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

Anyone who has spent late nights scrolling through their social media feed or grinding on video games knows one thing is true: Technology can be a good thing, but only in moderation. Like too much of anything, spending a lot of time on the internet or social media can lead to unhealthy consequences. Since May is mental health awareness month, we thought it would be a good time to remind ourselves of the importance finding a healthy balance when it comes to using technology.

Social distancing on social media

The global coronavirus pandemic continues to test our own personal resilience. While most of us are sheltering at home, we’re also relying more and more on technology for work and staying connected to family and friends via virtual conferencing and social media. But too much social media can be a bad thing, too.

The more scientists study social media use, the more they find negative side effects:

  • Young people who use social media more than two hours a day tend to rate their mental health as fair or poor compared with less frequent users.
  • Occasional users of social media are almost 3x less likely to be depressed than heavy users.
  • People who restrict social media use to a half-hour a day have significantly lower depressive and anxiety symptoms.

If you’re someone who finds periods of abstention reinvigorating, you may want to add a digital detox to go along with New Year’s resolutions and Sober October.

Data loss blues

When you spend a lot of time on a computer, it’s only a matter of time before you lose something important. It could be financial documents, or an album of precious family photos, or maybe a big work presentation. Worse yet, you could have your entire system taken over by ransomware. Stressed yet? You’re not alone. We asked IT pros what they would rather lose than their data and here’s what they had to say:

Things IT pros would rather lose than data:

  • Internet connection
  • Cell service
  • Internal organ
  • Wedding ring
  • Robot lawnmower
  • Bacon

That’s right. Bacon! Kidding aside, losing data can be stressful. And many businesses don’t survive after major data loss. That’s why using strong cybersecurity solutions, like cloud-based antivirus, is so important, as is backing up the important files and folders on your computer. Do it for the sake of your data, or do it for the bacon, but just do it! You’ll thank us.

Technology never sleeps

If you think it’s hard for those just using technology, think of the people who have to work in technology. If you’ve ever thought about a career in tech, you better like the night shift. Technology never sleeps. The best time to perform upgrades or installations is late at night when most users are offline and there’s less traffic on the network. Want to launch a new website? Midnight is probably the best time. But all this late-night system testing and debugging can lead to loss of sleep and, in turn, an unhealthy dose of stress.

And it’s not just tech pros doing tech things late at night. If you’re up late scrolling your feed and posting comments, you may not be sleeping as well as you should. The blue light from phone screens and computers reduce your levels of melatonin, which is the hormone that controls your sleep. And lack of sleep can lead to several harmful side-effects, including:

  • Anxiety, insomnia, depression, forgetfulness
  • Impaired thinking and slow reaction time
  • Increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes
  • Sleep apnea, low testosterone and decreased sex drive
  • Skin lines, dark circles under the eyes, weight gain

So, avoid using tech too close to bedtime if you can. Reduced stimulation works wonders for good sleep habits. The news will still be there in the morning.

There’s an app for that

It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to technology and mental health. In fact, advancements in health technology are emerging at a rapid rate. One area of progress is apps that help people with mental health issues. The National Institute of Mental Health has identified several promising trends, including:

  • Apps that provide tools for managing stress, anxiety and sleep problems
  • Cognitive remediation apps that help people develop thinking and coping skills
  • Illness management apps that put trained health care providers in touch with patients
  • Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation apps

Resilience online and offline

It’s a measure of our personal resilience when we’re able to persevere through something as disruptive as coronavirus. Having social media and the internet can help. But we have to be mindful to avoid overdoing it. We also have to be careful to protect the digital devices we’ve come to rely on with appropriate cybersecurity. That’s cyber-resilience. And it can do wonders for your peace of mind and your overall mental health.

2020’s Most (and Least) Cyber-Secure States

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

For the past several years, Webroot and its partners have conducted a series of studies aimed at better understanding the attitudes, perspectives, and behaviors related to cyber hygiene in United States. This helps users determine which behaviors put them most at risk and which behavioral changes could help increase their cyber resilience.

“Cyber hygiene” can be defined as the set of behaviors which enhance (or don’t) an individual or family unit’s resilience against cyber threats including, but by no means limited to, identity theft, phishing attacks, malware infections, and other web-borne threats.

Themes in Consumer Cybersecurity for 2020

Aside from organizing U.S. states into a Cyber Hygiene Risk Index, we were also on the lookout for emergent themes in cybersecurity awareness across the country.

  • Overconfidence, as we’ve seen before in previous studies, was a big theme. While the majority reported being familiar with malware (78%) and phishing scams (68%), far lower percentages were confident they could define the terms.
  • Individuals who’ve progressed through life milestones—like completing a degree, buying a home, beginning to keep up with the news, or starting a family—begin to improve their risk index scores. This hard-won experience tends to belong to older demographics, parents, and those with higher levels of education and income compared to more risky peers.
  • A relationship was uncovered between “tech-savviness” and risk index scores. In other words, the more technologically competent respondents in this study reported being, the more likely they were to exhibit risky behavior online.

Other Key Findings from the 2020 study

Overall, it was heartening to find that most Americans are taking at least baseline precautions for repelling and recovering from cyber-attacks. Eighty-three percent use antivirus software, and 80 percent regularly back up their data, both key indicators of an individual or family’s overall cyber resilience.

The news, however, is far from all positive. In fact, the plain truth is most Americans receive a failing grade when their cyber hygiene is examined in-depth. This is especially true when measuring avoidable risks to online data and identity. Using this metric, the average American scored a 58 percent on our Cyber Hygiene Risk Index, while no state scored higher than a D grade (67%).

Other key findings from the study:

  • Almost half (49%) of Americans admit to using the same password across multiple sites.
  • A spread of only 15 points separates the riskiest state in American (New York) from the least risky (Nebraska). No state scored higher than a D on our Cyber Hygiene Risk Index.
  • Very small businesses (VSBs) are apt to take cybersecurity into their own hands, which often entails sharing passwords and using personal devices for work.
  • Among those who do receive work devices from their employer, 55 percent use them for personal use.
  • Almost a fifth (19%) of those who were the victim of a cyber-related attack, made NO changes to their online behavior

It’s not an exaggeration to call the state of cybersecurity understanding in the U.S. abysmal. Risky activities like reusing passwords, not using multiple backups, or not updating software are still rampant in every state. Given that we saw a 640 percent rise in phishing attempts over the past year, we can expect these habits will catch up with more Americans.

The above highlights represent only a small portion of the complete findings of the report. For the completed report, including the complete ranking of all 50 states according to our Cybersecurity Hygiene Risk Index metrics, download the full report.

To invest in internet security on all your devices, click here.

Lost or Stolen Device? Here’s What to do Next

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

It’s a nightmare, it’s inconvenient, and it’s inevitable. Losing or having your smart device stolen poses a significant, looming privacy risk— we just don’t like to think about it. However, this is an instance where hiding your head in the sand will only make you more susceptible to attack.

The personal data living on your family’s network of devices is valuable and often-times all too vulnerable. Having a worst-case-scenario plan in case of device loss or theft could save you time, money, and heartache.

So, we’ve put together a list of best practices in case the worst does happen, you’ll be prepared to prevent an identity theft disaster.

General Best Practices

Preparing yourself and your devices before they are stolen is the fastest way to avert potential breaches. Consider:

  • Keeping a “Find My” app turned on for all devices. This is the best way to locate and remote wipe devices.
  • Making sure your devices are secured behind individualized pin codes, fingerprints, or Face ID. This will slow down thieves trying to access your device.
  • Use strong, individualized passwords on all accounts, including email and banking apps. Don’t have the time? Use a trusted password manager to automate password creation. This will help limit the scope of any breach.
  • When a device is stolen, act quickly. The faster you respond, the more effective the following steps are likely to be. If the thief turns the device off, or removes the battery, you’ll be unable to remotely wipe the device.

Learn how to get automatic protection over any network, even unsecured WiFi.

Android Devices

Here is what Android users should do in case of device theft.

  • First, locate your device. Go to android.com/find and sign into your Google Account.
  • If you have more than one device, choose the one you’re looking for from the list at the top of the screen. The lost/stolen device will receive a notification, so you should act quickly.
  • On the map on your screen, you’ll be shown information about the phone’s location. Remember this is approximate and might not be neither precise nor accurate. If your phone can’t be found, you’ll see its last known location (if available).
  • Now, if you’re certain your device has been stolen, you can click “Enable lock & erase” to erase your device. But be careful. After you erase your device, Find My Device will no longer work, so make sure you are certain.
  • If you believe your phone is just lost, and not stolen, you have a few options. “Lock” will lock your phone with your PIN, pattern, or password. If you don’t have a lock in place, you can set one. To help someone return your phone to you, you can also add a message or phone number to the lock screen.

An important note: If you happen to find your phone after you have erased it, you’ll likely need your Google Account password to use it again.

iOS Devices

Here is what iOS users should do in case of device theft.

  • Next, you’ll need to locate your device. Select the one you’re searching for to view its location on a map.
  • You’ll be presented with a few options here. “Mark As Lost” will remotely lock your device, allow you to display a custom message with your contact information on the missing device’s lock screen, and track the device’s location. If you have added Apple Pay payment options, the ability to make payments using Apple Pay on that device will be suspended for as long as the device is in Lost Mode.
  • If you’re certain your device has been stolen, select “Erase your device.” When you erase your device remotely, all of your information is deleted, and you will no longer be able to locate it with the Find My app or Find iPhone on iCloud.com. Make sure your phone is not recoverable before taking this step.

Device Theft Wrap-Up

After you have protected your most sensitive information with the steps above, take just a few more steps to fully wrap the crisis up.

  • Report your lost or stolen device to local law enforcement. Law enforcement might request the serial number of your device. This can often be found on the original packaging.
  • Report your stolen device to your wireless carrier. They will disable your account to prevent calls, texts, and data use by the thief. If you have insurance through your carrier, this is the time to begin filing a claim as well.
  • Reset all of your passwords, including your Google Account and Apple ID. After a device is stolen, you can never be certain of how far the breach has penetrated. The good news is, if you are using a secure password manager, this should be pretty quick!
  • Any accounts that had 2FA access, when you first set up the account would have had you save the private key or one time code. This key will allow you back into your accounts without needing the device and will allow you to remove the account from the device.
  • Alert your banking providers to the potential breach and monitor your bank accounts and credit cards for suspicious activity. If you see any, get ahead of the issue and cancel and replace all of your bank cards. This will prevent the financial breach from affecting multiple accounts.

A stolen device is a headache, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. If you have a plan in place for a worst-case scenario, you’ll be able to act quickly and confidently. Do you have device theft tips that we missed here? Let us know on the Webroot Community.

5 Security Tips for Setting Up a New Device

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

The last thing you want to do when you get a new computer, mobile device, or tablet is spend a lot of time setting it up. But like any major appliance, these devices are something you want to invest a little time setting up properly. Often, they’re not cheap. And you want them to last. So, before you jump online and start shopping, gaming, or browsing, take some time to ensure your device is ready for anything the internet can and will throw at it.

There’s a caveat, though, of which Webroot security analysts are quick to remind users. “Even if you’ve taken every precaution when it comes to configuring your new device,” says Webroot Threat Research Analyst Connor Madsen, “it’s important to remember that proper online etiquette is essential to your security.”

“Clicking on links that don’t seem quite right, opening attachments from unknown senders, or otherwise ignoring your best security instincts is a good way to undermine any effective online security protection.”

Connor Madsen, Threat Research Analyst

For best results, in addition to the warning issued above, here are five tips for making sure your device, and the important files stored within it, are safe from common risks.

#1 – Update software

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure the operating system on all your devices is up to date. One of the most common methods hackers use to launch attacks is exploiting out-of-date software. Failing to install periodic patches and software updates leaves your new device vulnerable to the numerous threats lurking on the web. Depending on how old and out-of-date your device is, it may take a while for applications to update. However long it takes, it’s preferable to the hassle and expense of having to undo an infection after it’s bypassed your security perimeter.

#2 – Enable firewall

Speaking of your security perimeter, the first line of defense along that perimeter is your firewall or router, if you’re using one. A router works as a firewall for the devices connected to it. But, if you’re not using a router, make sure your firewall is enabled to protect you from malicious traffic entering your network. This is different from an antivirus, which protects you from malicious files.

#3 – Install antivirus

Malicious files can be disguised as attachments in an email or links on the web, even the apps you download. So, it’s important to have an antivirus solution to protect your new computer. Malware attacks like ransomware make constant news these days. And everyone’s a target, from individual users to local businesses, hospitals, or municipalities. The cybercriminals launching these attacks are constantly changing, evolving threats to be more sophisticated and harder to detect. That’s why it’s important to keep your antivirus as up-to-date as your operating system and other applications.

#4 – Back up

Once you have your operating system and applications updated, your firewall enabled and an effective anti-virus application, you can begin using your computer safely. But there’s one more thing you need to consider if you’re going to be creating and storing important documents and work material on your new machine. Any new files on your computer will need to be backed up. That’s when you make a copy of the contents on your machine and store it in a safe place just in case you lose the original or it becomes infected by a virus. Since no single security solution can be 100 percent effective, it’s best to have a backup copy of important files. The thing is, you don’t want to have to decide what’s worth backing up and what’s not. That’s far too labor-intensive and it introduces the possibility of human error. Your best bet is to use a solution that’s designed for this purpose. A true backup solution protects files automatically so you don’t have to remember what you copied and what you didn’t. It also greatly simplifies file recovery, since it’s designed for this purpose.

#5 – Wipe your old device

Just because you have a shiny new toy doesn’t mean you can forget about your old machine. Before you relegate it to the scrap heap, make sure there’s nothing important or confidential on it you wouldn’t want someone to have access to. You could have old passwords saved, tax records, or sensitive work documents that you wouldn’t want shared. The best way to do this is to wipe the contents of your old device and reinstall the operating system from its original state.

Seem overwhelming? If so, it’s best to remember that one of your strongest cybersecurity tools is common sense. While things like an antivirus and backup strategy are essential for maintaining good cyber hygiene, remember Madsen’s advice.

“If it seems like an offer that’s too good to be true, or something about a link or file just doesn’t seem right, don’t click or download it. Trust your instincts.”

Cybersecurity Tips for Online Holiday Shopping

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

The holiday shopping season is prime time for digital purchases and cybercriminals are cashing in on the merriment. With online shopping officially becoming more popular than traditional in-store visits this year, all signs point to an increase in cyberattacks. It’s more important than ever to be mindful of potential dangers so you can avoid getting Scrooged when buying online. Follow these top tips for secure online shopping.

Want to give the gift of cybersecurity? Internet Security Complete includes Identity Shield, designed to protect your browsing, shopping, banking, and social media.

Only use credit cards. If your debit card gets compromised, it has the potential to cascade in catastrophic ways; automatic bill payments may bounce or overdraft protections may drain secondary accounts. Some banks also have strict rules about when you need to notify them of suspected fraud, or else you could be liable for the costs.

On the other hand, the Fair Credit Billing Act provides some protections for consumers from unauthorized charges on credit cards. Additionally, it’s much easier to have your credit card replaced with new, uncompromised numbers and details than it is with bank account info.

Be cautious of deal and discount emails. During the holidays, there’s always a spike in physical and electronic mailers about special deals. At this point, we’re all used to that. We might even wait to buy something we want, knowing that it’ll probably go on sale during holiday clearance. Unfortunately, criminals use this expectation against us by sending cleverly crafted phishing emails to trick us into compromising our data.

Always be cautious about emails from unknown senders or even trusted third-party vendors, especially around the holidays. Always navigate to the deal website separately from the email — don’t just click the link. If the deal link can only be accessed through the email, it’s best to pass up on those supposed savings. It is also prime time for emails offering “free giftcards” avoid those like the plague.

Never make purchases without HTTPS. Check the URL—if it doesn’t start with HTTPS, it doesn’t have SSL encryption. SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption is a security standard for sharing information between web servers and a browser. Without it, your private information, including your credit card number, can be more easily intercepted by cybercriminals.

Keep in mind: HTTPS only ensures that the data you send will be encrypted on the way, not that the destination is legit. Cybercriminals have started to use HTTPS to trick website users into a false sense of security. That means, while you should never send private or financial data through a site that doesn’t have HTTPS, you shouldn’t rely on the presence of HTTPS alone to guarantee the security of the page.

Don’t make purchases on devices you don’t personally own. If you’re using a borrowed or shared device, such as a computer at a library or a friend’s phone, don’t make any purchases. Even if it’s a seemingly safe device that belongs to a person you know and trust, you have no way of knowing how secure it really is. It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll encounter a lightning deal that’s worth the hassle of financial fraud or identity theft. So just wait on that purchase until you can make it on your own device.

Never use unsecured public WiFi for online purchases. Many public WiFi networks, like the ones at your local café, the gym, a hotel, etc., are completely unsecured and unencrypted. That means anyone with the know-how can easily track all of your online activities while you’re using that network, including any login or banking information. Even worse, hackers are capable of dropping viral payloads onto your device through public networks, which can then spread to your other devices at home.

Always use a VPN when you’re on public WiFi, if you have to use it at all. Otherwise, we suggest using a private mobile hotspot from your phone instead. (See our section on VPNs below.)

Use a password manager to create strong passwords. You can often stop a security breach from spreading out past the initial impact point just by using a trusted password manager, such as LastPass, which will help you create strong passwords. A password manager will create and store them for you, conveniently and securely, so you don’t have to remember them or write them down somewhere. Taking this step will help protect you from potential third-party breaches as well, like the one Amazon announced just before Black Friday in 2018.

Encrypt your traffic with a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN allows you browse privately and securely by shielding your data and location in a tunnel of encryption. So even if you are unwittingly using a compromised network, such as the unsecured public WiFi at your favorite morning coffee stop, your VPN will prevent your private data from being scooped up by cybercriminals. But be sure you’re using a trusted VPN—many free options secretly collect and sell your data to turn a profit.

Install antivirus software and keep it up to date. A VPN will protect your data from being tracked and stolen, but it can’t protect you if you click on a malicious link or download a virus. Make sure your antivirus software is from a reliable provider and that it’s not only installed, but up to date. Most antivirus products today will even update themselves automatically (as long as you don’t turn that feature off), so make sure you have such settings enabled. It may make all the difference when it comes to preventing a security breach.

Keep a close eye your bank and credit accounts for suspicious activity. The fact of the matter is that the holiday season causes a peak in malicious online activity. Be proactive and check all of your financial records regularly for suspicious charges. The faster you can alert your bank or credit provider to these transactions, the faster you can get a replacement card and be back on your merry way.

Don’t fall victim to cybercrime this holiday season. Be mindful of all the links you click and online purchases you make, and be sure to protect your devices (and your data and identity) with a VPN and strong antivirus software!

What You Need to Know about Cyberbullying

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

Have you noticed a decrease in your child’s happiness or an increase in their anxiety? Cyberbullying might be the cause to these behavioral changes.

Bullying is no longer confined to school playgrounds and neighborhood alleys. It has long moved into the online world, thanks to the easy access to technology. Between Twitter, SnapChat, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, or even standard SMS texts, emails and instant messages, cyberbullies have an overwhelming number of technical avenues to exploit.

While cyberbullying can happen to anyone, studies have shown that teens are usually more susceptible to it. The percentage of individuals – middle and high school students from across the U.S. — who have experienced cyberbullying at some point, has more than doubled (19% to 37%) from 2007 to 2019, according to data from the Cyberbullying Research Center.

Before you teach your kids how to respond to cyberbullying, it is important to know what it entails.

Check out our Cybersecurity Education Resources

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, tablets, or computers. Even smaller devices like smartwatches and iPods can facilitate cyberbullying. Today, social media platforms act like a breeding ground for cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying usually begins with teasing that turns to harassment. From there it can evolve in many ways, such as impersonation and catfishing, doxxing, or even blackmail through the use of compromising photos.

Catfishing is the process of creating a fake identity online and using it to lure people into a relationship. Teens often engage in impersonation online to humiliate their targets and it is a form of cyberbullying.

Doxxing is used as a method of attack that includes searching, collecting and publishing personal or identifying information about someone on the internet.

Identifying the Warning Signs

When it comes to cyberbullying, just like traditional bullying, there are warning signs for parents to watch for in their child. Although the warning signs may vary, Nemours Children’s Health System has identified the most common ones as:

  • being upset or emotional during or after internet or phone time
  • being overly protective of their digital life and mobile devices
  • withdrawal from family members, friends, and activities
  • missing or avoiding school 
  • a dip in school performance
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite
  • suddenly avoiding the computer or cellphone
  • being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
  • avoiding conversations about their cell phone activities

Remember, there are free software and apps available to help you restrict content, block domains, or even monitor your child’s online activity.

While having a child who is being cyberbullied is every parent’s nightmare, it’s equally important to understand if your child is cyberbullying others.

Do you believe your child is a cyberbully? That difficult and delicate situation needs its own blog post—but don’t worry, we have you covered.

You’ll also find many cyberbullying prevention and resolution resources on both federal and local levels, as well as support from parents going through similar issues on our community forum.

Preparing your kids for a world where cyberbullying is a reality isn’t easy, but it is necessary. By creating a safe space for your child to talk to you about cyberbullying, you’re setting the foundation to squash this problem quickly if it arises.

5 Tips for Feeling Your Best in Your Home Office

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

With major advancements in communication technology, many of us are fortunate to be able to work from home. Working from home can be a huge productivity boost—saving you gas and time by not commuting, plus you get to work more on your own terms. If you’re able to work from home here are five tips to make sure you stay productive and feeling good in your home office.

Get Comfortable

Not so comfortable that you fall asleep, but we all know how miserable an uncomfortable office chair can be. By working at home, you have the opportunity to completely build your own environment. That means finding the right furniture for you. 

If you’re looking for a high-quality office chair, an underrated place to look is gaming chairs, which were built for long hours of sitting. However, a high-quality chair from your local furniture store would likely also do the trick.

Or, maybe instead of sitting all day, you prefer to stand. Luckily, there is an abundance of standing desks available for your choosing, many of which are easily adjustable so you can alternate between sitting and standing.

In addition to ergonomics, you also want to think about how to decorate your home office. For example, having plants in your office can actually help reduce stress and improve productivity. If you can, try to choose a room that has lots of natural lighting, which can help you stay healthy, concentrated, and even sleep better at night.

However you want to set up your home office, it’s important that you do what’s most comfortable for you. 

Limit Distractions…But Not Too Much

If you’re going to be working from home, you may have to deal with more distractions than you would in the office, especially if you have pets or family moving around the house. Because of this, it’s important you try to limit distractions, not letting your eyes wander to the television or Facebook. After all, you may be the only one keeping yourself accountable.

If you have people in the home who could be distracting, make sure you choose an office space that has a door, possibly in a more remote part of the home, rather than working in common spaces. It’s a good idea to also ask your friends and family members to respect your work hours.

At the same time, you will need breaks from time to time, so don’t be afraid to keep distractions at hand, but out of sight. If you know that you struggle with concentration without someone looking over your shoulder, there are a number of apps you could try that help promote focus and productivity

Secure Your Devices

Now that you are in charge of your own office, you may also be in charge of making sure that it is secure. Namely, you want to make sure you have proper cybersecurity measures in place. This will help you keep peace of mind while you’re working, but also ensure you’re not derailed by cybercriminals or unexpected computer failures.

First and foremost, you want to make sure your devices and data are protected with a consumer antivirus (AV) or endpoint protection. If your company consists only of you or you are working remotely from your personal computer, a consumer AV may be right for you. However, if your company has a few employees and you need to manage multiple endpoints, a business endpoint solution is a better option.

Explore the differences between antivirus and businesses endpoint protection.

Regardless of which solution is right for you, it’s important to remember that all security products are not created equal. The top antivirus and endpoint protection products are cloud-based, have a small digital footprint—meaning they won’t slow down your computer—are actively protecting against known and never-before-seen threats, and are able to reverse any damage that occurs if your device is compromised.

Another measure you should consider is backing up your data. While this can be done using a physical external hard drive, they can also be compromised when plugged in. The best option is using a cloud-based backup and recovery service.

Ransomware attacks alone increased over 350 percent in 2017 and have since become more sophisticated, targeting larger victims including government organizations. Given that, protecting your devices and your data is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity.

Declutter Often

We all know how cluttered a desk can get. Depending on your job, you may have papers strewn about, multiple desktops, or a pile of sticky notes in shorthand you can no longer quite decipher. But a cluttered environment can lead to a cluttered mind. 

In fact, Lynne Gilberg, a professional organizer in Los Angeles, CA told WebMD, “Clutter is bad for your physical and mental health…A lot of people express that they are overwhelmed. They become nonfunctional and nonproductive.” It’s important to keep your area organized and tidy to be more productive and creative in the long run.

Plus, remember that this is still your home, and you may not want your family or guests to consider your office an eyesore. If you’re ever overwhelmed by chaos in your home office, here are some tips for helping clean up your work area.

Separate Personal and Professional

When working from home, it’s easy to blur the lines between your personal and professional lives. However, it is important that you resist this tendency to blend the two. Thinking too much about work at the dinner table can disconnect you from family and friends. And managing day-to-day family tasks while on the clock can hurt productivity.

You may want to establish strict working hours to help keep your two home lives separate. Let’s say from 8-5 you concentrate on work and then, after five p.m., you concentrate on your family, friends, and anything else that may need to get done around the home. 

Looking to build a more complete, detailed schedule? The New York Times highlighted some tips for building a work-from-home schedule that will help you stay on task and stay productive.

Some Final Tips for Your Home Office

  • Consider getting exercise equipment for short breaks. Things like resistance bands, small weights, or even a treadmill can help keep your blood flowing on a long work day.
  • Stock up on supplies. You’ll still need pens, paper, and other work supplies in your home office. Make sure you are always stocked.
  • Dress for work. Just because you have the option to work in your underwear, doesn’t mean you should.

To learn more about how criminals are targeting the healthcare industry, as well as what needs to be done about it, check out the second installment of this blog: Healthcare Cyber Threats That Should Keep You up at Night.

Cookies, Pixels, and Other Ways Advertisers are Tracking You Online

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

In May of 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in the EU. Seemingly overnight, websites everywhere started throwing pop-ups to inform us about their use of cookies and our privacy rights. While the presence of the pop-ups may be reassuring to some (and annoying to others), the real issue is that very few of these pop-ups give any explanation as to how the cookies are used or whether they inform marketing decisions. So, before you click “accept” on that next privacy policy notification, read our primer on all things related to cookies, pixels, and web traffic trackers.

Check out the Webroot Community for more tips on how you can manage these cookies.

What is a Cookie?

Cookies (aka. HTTP cookies, session cookies, browser cookies, web cookies, or tracking cookies) are used by almost all websites to keep track of site users’ sessions. While you might not like the idea that a website is tracking you, cookies actually provide a very convenient function. Without them, websites you regularly visit wouldn’t be able to remember you or what content they should serve you. For example, if you added items to an online shopping cart and then navigated away without purchasing, that cart would be lost. You’d have to go back and add everything all over again when you were finally ready to buy. If it weren’t for cookies, our web experiences would be entirely different (and much more frustrating).

In cases like the previous example, the use of tracking cookies is pretty benign and helps smooth the user’s online experience overall. So, if cookies can provide a beneficial service, why do we need privacy laws like GDPR? The answer is because of a specific type of cookie, i.e. third-party tracking cookies. These are created by domains other than the one you are actively visiting. They run silently in the background, tracking you and your online habits without your notice and compiling long-term records of your browsing behavior. These are typically used by advertisers to serve ads “relevant” to the user even as they navigate unrelated parts of the web.

Who Serves Cookies and Why?

By far the most prolific servers of third-party cookies are Google and Facebook. To help businesses target and track advertisements, both Google and Facebook both suggest embedding a tracking pixel—which is just a short line of code—into business websites. These pixels then serve up cookies, which allow the site owner to track individual user and session information.

The tracking doesn’t stop there. To optimize their marketing tools for all users, Google and Facebook both track and store this data in their own databases for processing through their own algorithms. Even if you’re not currently logged in to Facebook, your session data can still be tracked by your IP address.

What is People-Based Targeting?

Google and Facebook’s ad platforms work incredibly well because they pair cookie data with an existing bank of user data that most of us have willingly (or unwillingly) given them. Your Facebook account, Instagram account, Gmail, and Google Chrome accounts are all linked to larger systems that inform sophisticated advertising networks how to appeal to you, specifically, as a consumer. This way, websites can serve you ad content you’re likely to click on, no matter which sites you’re actively visiting. Combining traditional cookie tracking with these types of in-depth user profiles is called “people-based targeting” and it’s proven to be an incredibly powerful marketing tactic.

How to Protect Your Data

The sad truth is that you’ll never fully escape tracking cookies, and, frankly, you probably wouldn’t want to. As mentioned above, they streamline your online experiences in a pretty significant way. What you can do is reduce the breadth of their reach in your digital life. Here are a few key ways to do that.

  1. Stay vigilant. Be sure to read the privacy policies before you accept them. This advice goes beyond the GDPR-compliant pop-ups that have become so prevalent in the last year. Keep in mind that tech giants are often interconnected, so it’s important to be aware of all the privacy policies you’re being asked to accept.
  2. Clean house. You don’t have to do it often, but clear your cookie cache every once in a while. There are plusses and minuses here; clearing your cache will wipe away any long-term tracking cookies, but it will also wipe out your saved login information. But don’t let that deter you! Despite that sounding like a hassle, you may find your browser performance improves. Exact steps for how to clear your cookies will depend on your browser, but you’ll find plenty of guides online. Don’t forget to clear the cache on your mobile phone as well.
  3. Use a VPN. Most of all, we recommend installing a virtual private network (VPN) on all of your devices. VPNs wrap your web traffic in a tunnel of encryption, which will prevent tracking cookies from following you around the web. Make sure you use a reputable VPN from a trusted source, such as Webroot® WiFi Security. A number of the supposedly free VPN options may just sell your data to the highest bidder themselves.

Cookie tracking and digital ad delivery are growing more sophisticated every day. Check back here for the latest on how these technologies are evolving, and how you can prepare yourself and your family to stay ahead.

Online Gaming Risks and Kids: What to Know and How to Protect Them

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

Online games aren’t new. Consumers have been playing them since as early as 1960. However, the market is evolving—games that used to require the computing power of dedicated desktops can now be powered by smartphones, and online gaming participation has skyrocketed. This unfortunately means that the dangers of online gaming have evolved as well. We’ve examined the top threats that parents need to know about to keep their kids safe while gaming online.

Check out our Antivirus protection for PC gaming without impact on your gameplay.

Online Bullying and Harassment

A recent study shows that 65% of players who participate in online gaming have been harassed; a statistic that does not bode well for underage gamers. Your first instinct may be to try to prevent your child from participating in online gaming altogether, but this may cause them to sneak playing time without your knowledge. A stronger choice would be to talk with your kids and prepare them for the types of negative behavior they may experience online, and to make sure they know they can come to you if they are being harassed. It’s also important to explain the impact that online bullying can have on others, and to set firm consequences if you catch your child participating in harassment or abusive language. Regulating the use of headsets can help prevent both your child’s exposure to and participation in online harassment.

Two types of harassment specific to online experiences go a step beyond what you would expect from online bullying: doxxing and swatting. Doxxing is when one or more online participants seek personal, identifying information on a particular user for blackmail or intimidation purposes. Doxxing can often lead to the release of real names, phone numbers, home addresses, employer information, and more. Swatting is a form of harassment that uses doxxing techniques to create an actual, tangible threat. A harasser will call in a threat to a doxxed user’s local law enforcement, often claiming there is a kidnapping or hostage situation at the victim’s address. This may bring a large SWAT response unit to descend upon the address.

Keeping an open line of communication about your kid’s gaming experiences is critical. Swatting can happen over seemingly innocuous events. One of the most notorious examples followed a dispute over a $1.50 bet in “Call of Duty: WWII.”

Pro tip: one is only vulnerable to doxxing and swatting if a harasser can link identifying information back to the targeted gamer. Educating your kids on digital privacy best practices is one of the strongest security measures you can take against these forms of online harassment.

Viruses and Malware

As with almost every digital experience, you’ll find specific cybersecurity threats associated with the online gaming landscape. We asked Tyler Moffitt, Webroot security analyst, for his thoughts on the malware threats associated with online gaming. 

“The thing kids should really watch out for with games is the temptation to cheat,” explains Moffit. “In popular games like Fortnite and PUBG, ‘aimbots’ are very common, as they allow the player to get headshots they normally wouldn’t be able to make. However, many of the aimbots that kids download from forums are packed with malware—usually  ransomware or info-stealing Trojans. What’s worse: a lot of young gamers also don’t run antivirus because they think it will make the game slower.”

The bottom line: cheating at online games isn’t just ethically icky, it makes you a proven target for hackers. Make sure your kids know the real cost of “free” cheats.

Phishing Scams and Account Takeovers

Where there’s money, there are scammers. With more than 1 billion gamers actively spending money not just on games, but in games, it’s no surprise that phishing scams have become commonplace in gaming communities. One of the most prevalent phishing tactics in gaming: account takeovers are often prompted by a risky link click on a gaming forum, or a compromised account sending out phishing links to other users. Once the hacker has control of the account, they can run up fraudulent charges to any attached credit cards or, in some cases, sell the compromised account (particularly if it contains valuable items or character skins). Young gamers are especially at risk for these hacks. In these cases, chances are that any credit cards attached to gaming accounts belong to you, not your kids, so young gamers aren’t going to notice who’s spending your hard-earned funds.

Keeping Your Kids Safe

You’ll find plenty of tools to help your kids stay secure while gaming. Reliable antivirus software installed and up-to-date on all of your household smart devices can protect your family from malicious software. Additionally, wrapping your household web traffic in the secure encryption of a trusted VPN could reduce doxxing potential. But your kids will only find true security through digital literacy. Start conversations with them not just about online bullying, but about recognizing cybersecurity threats and phishing scams. If you’re having a hard time connecting with them over the threat, remind them that it’s not just your wallet on the line. Account takeovers are now all too common, and no kid wants to see their Fortnite skins sold for a stranger’s profit. Also, always be sure to exercise caution in giving out information on the internet. Even small, seemingly irrelevant pieces of information could be used to pull up Facebook or other user account pages to grab even more personal data.

To keep your kids educated about online gaming risks, it’s important to educate yourself as well. Have a question we didn’t cover here? Ask the Webroot community.