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Scammer calls citizen who just collected their stimulus check

How to Stay Protected Against Stimulus Check Scams

Stimulus Check Scams

President Donald Trump signed a Coronavirus Aid plan that would guarantee millions of Americans stimulus checks from the government.

Although many may see this as a positive, there are scammers looking to profit off this plan. Remember there is no sign-up required to receive the stimulus check. The process is automatic for all qualifying Americans.

How Will I Be Contacted?

The IRS always contacts taxpayers through traditional mail. Therefore, if you receive a phone call, email or text message from an “IRS official” stating you need to apply or register, it’s likely a scam.

The treasury department makes it clear on their website: “If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond.”

How Much Will I Receive?

Americans will receive up to $1200 per person in the coming weeks and parents will receive an additional $500 for each child under 17 years of age.

Furthermore, the IRS clarifies that the agency will post any additional information when it’s available at www.irs.gov/coronavirus.

How Will I Get The Stimulus Check?

Those who file their tax returns electronically and provide the IRS with their bank information will likely get their payments earlier via direct deposit. Some 88% of individual returns were filed electronically in 2018.

Individuals who file their tax returns electronically get their payments earlier through direct deposit.

What if I Don’t Have Direct Deposit?

Those who did not provide the IRS direct deposit information on their 2019 or 2018 tax return will get that opportunity in a new government online portal. This way, citizens won’t have to wait for the check in the mail.

Paper checks are expected to take longer to arrive.

However, details about this online portal have not been released. Until the IRS releases an official web address and further guidance, don’t give out your personal banking information online.

What Types of Scams?

Scammers are taking full advantage of Americans’ financial vulnerability right now.

Details regarding the portal have not been made public, however. So, until the IRS releases more information on the website provided above, don’t give out any personal information.

Scammers target financially vulnerable people the most. The greater the desperation the easier it is to extort and manipulate them.

There have also been reports of fake checks going around. However, if one is informed they have a better chance of not falling victim to these scams.

How Do I Know I’m Being Scammed?

Any and all checks delivered by mail now are scams or fraudulent. It will take the government at least a few weeks to mail out considering the bill was only passed Friday, March 27.

Additionally, any check you receive in the mail that requires online verification or contacting a given number is also fake. Be skeptical of checks for odd amounts of money, specifically checks with a cent amount.

The government stimulus will be for an even amount of money regardless of the amount received.

What Kinds of Scams should I Expect?

Any emails with suspicious links, text messages or even voice messages you receive regarding payment is probably a social engineering scam. If you receive an email that fits the description above, don’t open anything. Simply file a complaint with the FBI or Federal Trade Commission.

This applies to businesses as well. If you are working remotely and find yourself reading an email regarding the stimulus check, contact your IT department immediately. It is always better to be safe than sorry.    

According to CNBC report, coronavirus phishing scams are rising.

The Federal Trade Commission and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. issued warnings for Americans to be keep aware of cybercriminals who attempt to steal form users with COVID-19 related content.

Scammers work best when they hide behind legitimacy. Therefore, they use headlines, current events, trends and personal information to trick victims into giving up valued information.

Stoking fear and uncertainty is a tried and true method of manipulating a victim. Capitalizing on ignorance is the best method.

Those who don’t keep up with the news or are unclear about the specifics of the stimulus plan passed by President Trump’s administration are likelier to make a mistake than those who aren’t.

What Do These Attacks Look Like?

Scammers launch phishing attacks, through email and text to take advantage of those who have received checks. Often, these messages appear authentic, usually with a call-to-action such as “download our guide to using check” or “Get your money now, click here.”

If you are currently working remotely, contact your fellow employees, team members or IT department to verify any and all emails received. Have a strong cyber security plan in place.  There is strength in numbers and communicating doubts is the best way to deal with uncertainty.

Make sure you have a VoIP system in place to coordinate and communicate with your team, employers, or IT department at all times. This could be Skype, Zoom or any other online communication system.

Hackers are using this time of social distancing and isolation to their advantage, hoping that victims won’t verify the phishing emails they send out.

Having a reliable network of trusted experts or peers is good way to protect yourself from falling into one of these scams.

Employee working remotely at home on his laptop securely connected to the cloud.

Top Practices for Businesses Working Remotely

Working remotely, as we have seen in recent times, has become increasingly necessary to maintain a productive and profitable business. It is also an invaluable asset for any business continuity plan. If an unforeseen natural disaster or power outage takes place, organizations need to be prepared to continue operations.

A good example was in spring 2020 when the Securities and Exchange Commission became the first federal agency to encourage remote work for employees.

Although remote work is ideal for some, it can be an adjustment for others. And if you run a business or work for a businesses with sensitive data, how do you ensure your information is safe outside of the office?

Working remotely does not provide the same level of security that an office would. Furthermore, the environment in which you find yourself working might have present challenges to data security.

Here are some rules and policies we suggest when working remotely. Even when working on a cloud  environment, you must practice caution and communicate regularly to maximize the remote experience.

Communications

Periodic Check-ins

Working remotely requires daily and frequent calls with one another. A manager especially must take actions to establish calls with remote workers. Whether they are in the form of on-on-one calls or team call, if they are collaborating on a project.

There is no such thing as over-communication

Periodically notify your superiors of any information you might consider important. If there’s a doubt about the relevance of some information, share that also. In the case of remote work, nothing is too insignificant.

Clarify to your team all expectations moving forward

Communicate priorities and establish metrics for success. Remote work is more efficient when expectations and policies are clear and understood.

It’s also important to let employees know the best way to reach you and at what time. Nothing must be left to the imagination to successfully deploy a remote operation.

If you are off to lunch, notify for how long. When you return, notify your team. It’s crucial that all employees understand what the goals and directives are to avoid repeating efforts.

Track your progress

Keep track of your progress by documenting it and sharing it with relevant personnel. A work long with specific time slots for each task is particularly helpful in this case. It could be done in an excel sheet or a notebook. The medium is less important than the method. So long as it helps keep things organized.

Cloud computing keeps your remote business operations secured & accessible

Security

Stay away from public networks, encrypt your web connection, or use a personal hotpot

A public Wi-fi connection like the ones found in coffee houses and some restaurants create a risk for remote workers. In a public network, a threat actor or hacker can easily make their way into your device without a firewall in place. Moreover, anyone on a public network could easily monitor your traffic as well.

For these reasons it’s crucial that you keep your devices protected and secure.

Personal Hot-Spots

Using a hot spot eliminates the problem of a hacker jumping on the network you’re using. Although your web traffic remains unencrypted, your data stays safe. This will count against your cell phone data but it is worth the extra costs.

Most cell phone carriers there’s a minor fee for using hot spots but the alternative could cost you much more. And with the advent of 4G and 5G networks, hot spots are just as fast as home network connections.

VPN’s

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. VPNs can be used to access region-restricted websites, shield your browsing activity from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi, and more.

VPN’s are another solution if you find yourself working in a public network. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, enables you to create a secure connection with another network through the internet. These networks are often used to shield browsing activity from anyone snooping around on a public Wi-Fi network.

A VPN connects your device to a server that then connects it directly to the internet. But you must make sure the VPN you utilize is secure because hackers have been known to target unpatched VPN to access the user’s information. They usually do this via phishing scams that users interact with through a fake email.

This leads to the next point:

Encrypt your email and devices

If you have the proper safeguards in place, like email encryption and multifactor authentication then your data will remain secure no matter where you work from.

There are many software companies that provide encryption for email. Retruster, is one such example but there are others. This gives you added protection and peace of mind when working remotely.

Malicious actors often leverage current, events, personal information , or natural disasters to manipulate targets through phishing emails. An example of this was in spring 2020, when there were instances of hackers using the COVID-19 outbreak to send malicious emails to users.

Multi-Factor Authentication for Secure Devices

Multifactor authentication is a security system that requires multiple methods of authentication from independent credentials to verify user identity. In other words, it is a system that requires verification from a cellphone and a computer, for example, to then access data on your devices.

Having these measures in place creates a secure environment that facilitates remote work. None of these measures work in isolation. If communication is not up to par with data security or vice-versa, your operation will be compromised.

In Conclusion

What is most important is ensuring all members of your team are meeting your requirements, communicating effectively with one another and avoiding unnecessary risks like joining insecure networks or leaving devices unattended or unencrypted.

 

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Texas Ransomware Cyber Attack

Ransomware Attacks & Financial Firms

Ransomware Attack On Texas

Tuesday, August 20, 2019 a ransomware attack took place in 22 municipalities in Texas. Computer systems were hacked and held for ransom in a widespread ransomware strike. The cities of Borger and Keene were among those affected. Borger residents couldn’t access birth certificates or pay their utility bills.

Ransomware attacks are a growing problem for governments on a city, state and county level, according to a report by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The type of ransomware was not revealed and no state networks were breached in the attack according to Texas officials.

What is known is that the ransomware came from a single source.

Ransomware

Ransomware is the most common tactic used by cyber criminals because it’s relatively simple to execute and it’s cheap.

This has led to a rise in ransomware attacks since 2017 and most victims are small cities and counties. These cities are perfect because they often have underfunded IT staff and are therefore most vulnerable.

The same reasons that make these places so vulnerable to attack make financial firms vulnerable as well.

Cyber criminals are leveraging ransomware attacks to steal from industries of all kinds, but financial services firms are among the most lucrative.

Here are the reasons why:

  1. They store valuable, sensitive and confidential data that can be sold on the dark web or to a competitor.
  2. They usually have significant amounts of money available. This making them more likely to pay a ransom to get back encrypted data if there’s substantial downtime.
  3. Their IT security is believed to be lacking and inefficient, especially within smaller banks and credit unions.

The Looming Threat of Ransomware Statistics

Ways to Avoid Ransomware & Cyber Traps

Effectively combating ransomware requires implementing technical and cultural measures. This includes:

Training

Ransomware attacks are perpetrated through an email containing an infected link or attached document. Knowing what to look for is half the battle and greatly reduces the chances of falling victim to these attacks.

Here are some telltale signs of a ransomware attack:

  • There are glaring grammar and spelling errors in an ostensibly professional email.
  • You receive an email at odd hours of the day or night.
  • If the link attached to the email connects to an unusual URL. Hover your cursor over the link to check the URL.

Now more than ever it’s important to address this concern. Cyber-attacks affect financial services 300 times more than other companies, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Despite this, BCG found that many financial institutions are poorly equipped to respond effectively to a ransomware attack.

This comes from a failure to prioritize cybersecurity as a top issue. There is an overemphasis on prevention over detection and response. There is also a lack of security awareness in company culture in general, which can worsen the problem.

If employees reuse account credentials like passwords attackers can easily obtain them and cause serious damage. The most dangerous threats come from inside a firm- from a careless employee who fall victim to phishing, spoofing and other social engineering schemes. The resulting losses across the financial services industry run up to tens of billions of dollars.

 

Securing Your Network

It’s important to train users to recognize certain kinds of attacks, but keeping a secure network requires an approached focused on strong network architecture. An infrastructure capable of detecting and eliminating malware that may have found its way into the network.

It’s possible that your network may contain numerous latent threats, so all applications and email inboxes should be properly scanned for malicious content.

Top IT Service providers, like Nerds Support, deploy firewall as well as implementing comprehensive email security to stop threats before they become problems.

They’re also allow you to segment and control access throughout the network to minimize the spread of a virus attack should it get in.

Backups

When a hacker uses ransomware, they encrypt all data and sensitive information necessary to operate. That means payroll, customer’s financial information, email, internal documents and more. The only way to regain access is to pay a ransom of some kind.

If you backup your data, however, that doesn’t have to be the case. With the right strategy, rather than paying ransom, you can just restore your files from the latest back-up and the cyber criminal’s ploy will have been stopped in its tracks.

Cloud based back-up services are the best at this. Nerds Support provides partners with daily backups and updates all systems with the latest security features to combat cyber-attacks. These advanced solutions even allow you to create a virtual copy of your servers on the cloud and restore all compromised data within minutes of a breach or attack.

The Greatest Risk Isn’t What You Think

It’s logical for a cyber-criminal to target financial firms for the reasons mentioned above using ransomware. It’s a reality of living in an ever-more-digital era. Ransomware and other malware attacks are here to stay and should not be ignored. The greatest damage to a firm is not to their business, their productivity or their infrastructure, it’s to their reputation.

Financial services organizations possess people’s most personal financial information. Social security, banking information, credit history, etc. If you’ve failed to take the necessary precautions to prevent or mitigate an attack and your firm is breached, it will be nearly impossible for anyone to trust you again.

When you take on a client, there is an agreement that you will safeguard their information. There is a supposition of trust. If that trust is broken, the thing your service is founded upon, rebuilding your reputation will be an uphill battle for years to come.

What Does it Mean?

In the case of the Texas attacks, the governments of these municipalities have resources that help them recover. They have taxpayer funding, cyber security experts and other advantages that a private organization does not have. Even with these advantages, it’s still struggling to address the overall issue of cyber-attacks.

According to the cyber security firm Recorded Future, the attacks on these 22 cities were the most organized and coordinated attack they’ve ever seen. The Texas Department of Information Resources (TDIR) are currently involved in trying to bring back all systems online as are officials from other federal agencies.

If this is the type of damage that can be done on government institutions, there is no excuse for negligence on the part of any business let alone one as frequently targeted as a financial organization. Take stock of your current IT resources and make sure your company is properly prepared in all respects against ransomware and cyber-attacks.

For more information on Malware, ransomware and social engineering visit our blog or contact us and we’ll answer any questions or inquiries you may have about how to make your firm safe and secure.

Social Engineering Serious Threat

What Is Social Engineering?

Social Engineering

Social engineering comes in many forms. The most commonly spoken about is phishing but it gets much more intricate than that. We know about the hackers that use their technical skills to access and infiltrate a hapless victim’s computer and steal sensitive data.

There are other types of cybercriminals, however, who use techniques to undermine their victim’s cyber defenses. They ‘re called social engineers and they exploit the greatest liability in any and every industry: human beings. They use social media, phone calls and emails to trick people into willingly giving them valuable or desired information.

You may have heard stories of people getting calls offering credit card deals or one-time promotions. They try to take their targets information by claiming to be a representative of this or that company and requiring you to give them credit card information. This is social engineering.

In this article, we’ll focus on the most common types of social engineering attacks used to target victims into divulging information.

Scareware

Scareware involves victims being flooded with false emails and threatening notifications. Users are made to believe their computers are infected with malware or viruses, which encourages them to download software that infects the user’s computer with malware and viruses. Other names for scareware include deception software, fraudware and deception software.

Some of you could have encountered scareware at some point. They come in the forms of banner ads or pop ups that warn you about having an infected computer. It offers to install the software for you and direct you to a malware-infected site where your computer becomes vulnerable.

It can even spread through spam email so be weary of the messages you open.

Worm Attacks

In the past worm attacks have exploited the philosophy behind scareware, aiming to attract user attention to a malicious link or file. Worms were used most in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s but it’s still important to be aware of how they were so successful.

In 2000, the “Iloveyou” worm was spread in email attachments that managed to infect tens of millions of windows computers throughout the US. It started in the Philippines and spread to the west via corporate email systems, causing an estimated 5.5-8.7 billion in damages.

Victims received an email inviting them to open a love letter. When they opened the file, the worm copied itself to all the contacts in victim’s address book. Notice, social engineering is about manipulating human emotion to gain advantage over someone and their information.

Malware links, as mentioned above, contain provocative words or graphics that compel you to open them, bypassing any anti-virus filters your mail could have.

Baiting

Baiting is what it sounds like, baiting the victim by appealing to greed or personal interests. This is particularly insidious because it often discourages the victim from reporting an attack. An unsuspecting user will read an email offering fake deals and shortcuts like free internet or other illegal benefits.

When these emails are opened, the trojan virus attached to the email or file corrupts the computer and encrypts the computer or spreads further through the entire system.

The victim will most likely be too embarrassed to disclose their reasons for opening the email in the first place, so it goes unreported.

A perfect example of this technique was when a trojan virus was sent to the corporate email addresses of employees in the form of a recruitment website. The criminals knew that the employees would be reluctant to tell their employers they were infected with a virus while looking for other jobs.

This type of attack isn’t limited to email, either. Cyber criminals have also used USBs infected with viruses also. The USBs are left lying around and all it takes is one person curious enough to plug it into their machine to ruin everything.

Pretexting

Pretexting is a social engineering technique that uses cleverly developed lies and deceptions to obtain information. In the case of pretexting, it’s usually done through the phone as opposed to online. The attacker will pose as an important figure, perhaps a CEO of an IT company, or a vender and use that as a pretext to gain desired information from the victim or victims.

This also requires the social engineer to develop a friendship with the victim through this impersonation. The impostor asks the target a series of questions as an authority figure, lulling the victim into a false sense of security.

The key in pretexting is manufacturing a scenario that the social engineer uses to engage their victim. A famous case dates to the 1970’s when Jerry N. Schneider used old invoices and manuals obtained by scavenging trash to start a profitable business. He got the invoices by looking through the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph dumpsters. He then used that information to acquire new telephone equipment posing as high-ranking member of the company and sold it back to PTT through his own company.

Phishing

Phishing is the most common type of social engineering scheme. The attacker creates a fake version of an existing website of a highly regarded or renowned company and sends the link to targets through email or social media. The reason it’s so low on the list is because it’s been discussed at length in other blogs.

Vishing

As we’ve discussed, social engineers don’t always use the internet to gather information. Vishing is the use of Interactive Voice Response IVR to trick their target. They attach the IVR to a toll free number and trick people into calling that number and enter their information.

Tailgating

Tailgating is when a person uses an authorized person to gain access to a restricted area where some form of identification is required to get through.

This doesn’t work with large companies with advanced security features that require bio-metric scanning, for example, to get into the building.

What tends to happen is, the social engineer impersonates a delivery driver and when an employee is entering the building the person passing as a driver will quickly ask the employee to  hold the door so that they might make it through. This occurs more often in smaller sized businesses that have comparatively lax security.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo attacks offer benefits in exchange for information. The most common type of quid pro quo attack involves impostors pretending to be IT service providers and make direct calls to as many members of a company as possible. These criminals offer their IT expertise to all their targets and ask the victim to disable their antivirus program to fix whatever issue present at the time.

 

Social Engineering Statistics

Preventing Social Engineering Attacks

Now that we’ve discussed the types of social engineering techniques, you might be wondering how to defend against these types of attacks. If you’ve made it this far then congratulations you’ve taken the first step, which is knowing about them.

With the emergence of smartphone technology, which puts powerful computers in the hands of so many people, information is very easy to come by. Unlike the days of Mr. Schneider, you don’t have to peruse through company dumpsters to access valuable data.

You, your company, employers or employees need to be more conscientious about what is posted online. Whether it be on a website, a social media page or via email.

To keep your devices and accounts safe, it’s important to implement strong passwords and two-factor authentication. Invest in IT, take the necessary measures to add anti-virus software firewalls and the like.

This is by no means a comprehensive overview of all types of social engineering, some are more detailed in nature and varied in scope. Tactics are changing with technology and cyber attacks are becoming more and more laser focused on specific targets. Instead of going for a large pool of potential targets, the social engineers and cyber criminals will go for one or two individuals. They gather such specific information that distinguishing a phishing scam from a legitimate email is getting harder and harder.

Getting help from an IT service provider you can trust might mitigate the risks of falling for any one of these tricks.

For more information on phishing and other social engineering tactics, visit our website or call us for more information.

 

 

Keystroke Logging Thumbprint

Data Protection 101: Keystroke Loggers

Keystroke Logging is a software that tracks the keys that you type on your keyboard, as you type them. In example, if you were to start typing a document, a keystroke logger would be able to use their own special software to be able to monitor each key you have typed and figure out what you typed.

While this may seem a little shocking to hear, Nerds Support’s experienced business IT support team has been aware of programs like these for quite some time. In fact, hackers that carry keystroke logging programs are called Keyloggers. In the hacking community, Keyloggers have developed Keystroke Logging software that can access any type of computer. Nerds Support’s IT support Miami team would like to advise that this also includes highly monitored business computers.

Who uses Keystroke Logging?

Believe it or not, keystroke logging is an open secret. Even regular business owners, with a good sense of computer knowledge, access keystroke logging software for everyday use. Generally speaking, companies are more commonly use keystroke logging software to monitor their employee’s computer productivity. That means, that as a business owner, you can use this type of software to see what your employees are doing on company computers.

However, there is a community of hackers who would use this keystroke logging software to do some serious harm to your company. Keyloggers disable antivirus software on unsuspecting computers in order to install keystroke logging programs. Often, they use social engineering tactics, such as email phishing, to trick employees into downloading the malware onto company computers. They use their own special software to access company computers and disable the antivirus.

From there, keyloggers can find now configure everything that you type in your keyboard. They can access valuable information that can be used against you. Such data includes:

  • Important email login information
  • Very Important company files on clientele and analytics
  • Super Important company financial information

This information is only a fraction of what a keylogger can access if they were to ever hack your business computer to find company information.

Types of Key Loggers

Hardware

There are hardware based key loggers, which use a small device that serves as a connecter between a keyboard and the computer. The device was made to resemble an ordinary keyboard connecter.

A hardware key logger also comes as a module that is installed inside the actual keyboard. The victim uses the keyboard and the device collects each keystroke, saving it as text in its own hard drive.

Software

There are also key logging software programs as previously mentioned. These don’t require physical access to the target computer to install. A hacker typically installs the key logging software via malware to trick users into unwittingly downloading whatever program the hacker is using at the time.

Massive spam campaigns where a hacker sends malware encrypted with key logger software is pretty frequent.

There are several indicators that you could have a key logger in your system. Keep in mind, however, that one or more of these signs don’t automatically mean you have one:

  • Your mouse or keystrokes don’t appear onscreen when you type.
  • A slower web browser
  • You receive error screens when loading a graphic or webpage.

Keystroke Logging Incidents

On February 28, 2019 four students in New Jersey made the news when they illegally trying to change their grades used using keylogging software to hack into the school districts computer system.

The Jersey Journal reported the students used the software to get their teachers’ log-on information and changed their own grades and the grades of their friends.

This is just one example of what Keystroke logging is capable of.

Keystroke Logging Facts and Statistics

Keystroke logging is one of the oldest tools in the hacker’s arsenal, dating back all the way to the 1960’s and 1970’s. Russian spies figured out how to bug IBM typewriters used by US diplomats, transmitting the keystrokes through radio frequency.

In 2015 a key logger was found hidden inside a game modification for the popular videogame Grand Theft Auto V.

It’s also a tool used in law enforcement. In 1999 the FBI used key logging get notorious Philadelphia crime boss Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. when they installed a key logger through a Trojan. Using the data obtained from the key logger they were able to use it as part of their case against Scarfo.

Criminals use key loggers to get passwords, credit card information, and personal information in order to steal your identity and more. Key logging is one of the most prevalent forms of spyware because anyone can use it thanks to commercial spyware companies.

There are services that help install key loggers into a target of the client’s choosing.  There are even key logging services catered towards parents who wish to monitor their children’s online activity. These tools are available for anyone to use.

How to Combat Keystroke Logging?

It can be frustrating to fight against keystroke logging software. It might even be hard to prove that such a software is installed in your work computers. But one suggestion to combat keyloggers is that your company have Nerds Support’s Miami IT support data protection team to take care of keyloggers and ensure the safety of your company.

Having a reliable IT Support Miami team has become essential to a company’s survival. That’s why Nerds Support’s data centers are so secure. Your company would have heavily monitored data centers that conduct daily scans on their servers. When a heavily monitored data center conducts their scans, they make sure that their servers are clean and free of any trace of hackers or malware. Such a team would even alert your company of what is happening and remove the threat immediately.

A good business IT support plan should come with the latest firewalls and antiviruses. That would mean that so that business’ protection against malware can be guaranteed. That means you, the business owner, can focus more on your business and maximizing profit. So if you are in need of a great business protection plan, contact Nerds Support & find out how we can help you achieve your business goals!