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Cybercrime on campus: 6 tips to stay safe

What is Cybercrime?
Cybercrime is criminal activity taking place across the internet and the worrisome part is that these scams are taking place with increasing complexity and frequency. Some recent trends are affecting the ASU community as well those across the nation and around the world include: breaking into your computer systems to install malware, stealing your login credentials, then using your account to send out spam and phishing emails, stealing your personal or banking information, or causing embarrassment by defacing websites.

Who Are the perpetrators and What Do They Want?
Cybercrime perpetrators fall into categories including hackers, terrorists, and organized cyber criminal groups. The motivations for committing cybercrime can include a desire for recognition or promotion of an ideology; theft of money or information for industrial espionage; or the creation of widespread disruption. Cybercrime is big business. Between October 1, 2013, and December 31, 2014, for example, U.S. victims lost nearly $180 million through a scam known as the Business Email Compromise. One underground market has more than 14 million U.S. credit cards for sale. The creators of the CryptoLocker ransomware earned approximately $300,000 profit in its first 100 days.

How Can You Protect Yourself?
Cybercrime—whether from malware on a single computer or the high-profile hacks against Sony, Target, Home Depot and others—impacts everyone. Below are some key practices you can use to help minimize your risk of being a victim:

  • Configure Your Computer Securely
    Make sure your computer, smartphones, and tablets are safe. Use privacy and security settings in your software, email system and web browsers. New strains of malicious software are appearing all the time, so it is imperative to regularly update your anti-virus software to identify and thwart the newest threats.
  • Keep Software and Operating Systems Updated
    Be sure to install all software updates as soon as they are offered; using the “auto update” setting is the best way to ensure timely updates. Similarly, make sure you keep your operating system and any third-party plug-ins that you use updated.
  • Use Strong Passwords
    Never use simple or easy-to-guess passwords like “123456” or “p@$$word” or “football.” Cybercriminals use automated programs that will try every word in the dictionary in a few minutes. When creating a password, use at least 10 characters, with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Be Cautious About Links and Attachments
    Be cautious about all communications you receive including those purported to be from friends and family, and be careful when clicking on links in those messages. When in doubt, delete it.
  • Protect Your Personal Information
    Be aware of financial and sensitive information you give out. Cybercriminals will look at your social networking webpage to find information about you--remember, many of the answers to website and bank security questions can be found online, like the color of your car (remember posting that picture of you standing in front of your car?) and your mother’s maiden name. Use privacy settings to limit who can see the details of your social network pages, and be smart about what you decide to share online.
  • Review Your Financial Statements Regularly
    Cybercriminals find loopholes and your accounts may get hacked through no fault of your own, so review your financial statements regularly. Contact your financial institution immediately if you see any suspicious looking activity.


What to Do If You Are a Victim?