computers_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE – With the popularity and the convenience of shopping online during the holiday season, it is important to protect your computer from cyber threats and attacks. Broward College’s Chief Information Security Officer Matthew Santill is offering measures people can take to identify cyber threats and avoid an identity theft catastrophe.

“Online fraudsters are continuously learning new techniques to gain access to sensitive information, and their progressive practices are becoming harder to detect,” said Santill. “Being able to recognize a threat is an essential key in keeping data and information secure and crucial to avoiding a disaster.”

One common way for thieves to access personal information is through phishing, which is an email that attempts to scam users into providing personal information. To identify phishing, look for emails that include many misspelling or grammar mistakes, a notification to redeem monetary prizes, or urgent messages suggesting cancelation of services. To reduce the chance of a phishing attempt, avoid clicking suspicious links, call the business to verify authenticity of the message and use common sense before reacting to an email. Often, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Another way thieves can gain access to personal information is through computer viruses.  Usually disguised as something harmless and often delivered through phishing scams or downloaded programs, computer viruses can record everything entered into a computer, delete or corrupt important data and gain control of an owner’s computer. Simple solutions to safeguard against viruses include installing and updating anti-virus software, staying informed about updates and threats, and regularly changing passwords.

With the growing popularity of mobile devices, and the convenience of having email, contact information, internet access and calendars in the palm of your hand, thieves are targeting smartphones and tablets to obtain valuable personal data. To avoid the mobile threat of identity theft, mobile users should get into the habit of locking phones with a passcode. In addition, it is important to be selective with the information that is stored on the device, and be cautious when downloading and opening files.

If personal information has been stolen, acting quickly, and reporting suspicious activity to credit reporting agencies will help in reducing the impact of cyber-attacks and identity theft. Also consider obtaining a free credit report to determine the extent of the damage and file a report with the local police department.