TSTC Cybersecurity Program: Make It Difficult for Hackers to Get Information During COVID-19 Crisis

(MARSHALL, Texas) – As East Texans adapt to an uncertain future of self-isolation and businesses reducing hours or temporarily closing, online shopping is becoming the way for consumers to acquire what they want.

And for those people who do not shop online much, they could be a prime target for scammers.

“From a security perspective, the most important thing a consumer can do is make it difficult to get their information,” said Amy Hertel, an instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Cybersecurity program in Marshall. “Most consumer hackers will give up quickly if challenged.”

Hertel said people should use a “defense in depth” approach to create multiple layers of security. She recommends consumers follow cybercrime and security journalist/blogger Brian Krebs’ three rules: If you did not look for it, do not install it; update what you have installed; and if you no longer need it, get rid of it.  She added to Krebs’ guidelines: If it seems too good to be true, it is.

Hertel said people should have an active antivirus system and a software firewall, along with a secure home network.

“Put a password on your router and wireless networks, and hide them from anyone that might be driving by,” she said. “Make sure your router is encrypting your network traffic so your usernames, passwords and banking information are scrambled and cannot be seen.”

In 2018, the Better Business Bureau received more than 28,000 complaints and at least 10,000 scam reports nationwide related to online shopping.

“With identity theft, there is never a 100 percent guarantee that it will happen to you, but there are things you can do not to become a victim,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, president and chief executive officer of the bureau’s Central East Texas office in Tyler.

The bureau recommends consumers do online research before making purchases through social media and websites. The agency advises to research sellers, use a credit card for secure online payments, take time to think about purchases and keep documentation of all orders.

Mills said consumers should be aware of fake websites, malware and clickbait when perusing the internet. She said not to shop when using Wi-Fi hotspots because they are not secure.

“If a hacker is in the vicinity, they might have access to your information,” she said.

Mills said consumers should utilize locally-owned stores as much as possible.

“You can verify the legitimacy a little better, and when you go there, you are supporting the local economy,” she said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.