Pennsylvania Specialists Share Cybersecurity Tips

Computer specialists offer tips on protecting info online as Gov. Tom Wolf declares October Cybersecurity Awareness Month in the wake of more frequent data breaches and cyberattacks on government and business.

by Kelly Montiz, Standard-Speaker / October 7, 2019
Shutterstock/Michael Traitov

(TNS) — Local computer specialists in Pennyslvania are offering tips on protecting your information online as Gov. Tom Wolf declares October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month in the wake of more frequent data breaches and cyber attacks affecting government and businesses.

“The internet has enhanced our lives in countless ways, but there are those who would use it for harm,” said Michael Newsome, state secretary of administration, the office which oversees cybersecurity for state agencies. “The good news is that you do not have to be a technology guru to practice good cybersecurity.”

One of the best ways to protect yourself is with good, strong passwords, especially with online banking, said Eric Jenkins, president of Hazleton Computer in Hazle Twp. Email should be protected with two-factor authentication, where you need to answer a security question or get a text sent to your phone, he said.

Risa Schatz of 7th Level Technologies in Sugarloaf Twp. also recommends strong passwords, or those over eight characters in length and comprised of both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.

She also recommends against using something obvious, such as “password1,” and using the same password for everything. Schatz also favors two-factor authentication, which also could include fingerprint, iris scan or voice.

Email should be filtered for viruses and malware, Schatz said. She advises people to not click on a link in an email or open an attachment from a bank or business if you weren’t expecting it, because it could be a malicious attack.

People should keep their systems up to date and use antivirus programs, Schatz said. A good data backup service is also important, but not all cloud solutions are created equal, she said, and companies should be researched.

People should also be aware where they are going on the internet; if something looks questionable, stop, Schatz said. Also make sure that websites are legitimate, Jenkins said. If you’re looking for support for Microsoft, the website should be microsoft.com and not support.com, he said.

Also, don’t let anyone connect to your computer remotely, as scammers will connect and install malicious programs, Jenkins said. One of these scams is when a box appears on screen that says Microsoft is going to turn off your computer, he said. People panic and call the number, and the scammer asks to log on remotely and installs a malicious program, he said.

“That’s the majority of my business ... my customers getting scammed,” Jenkins said. “That’s the biggest problem these days. People don’t realize they’re talking to a scammer.”

Sometimes, a compromised computer can be cleaned up, but most of the time, they have to be wiped clean and the operating system reinstalled, he said.

Jenkins offers classes on how to not get scammed at his shop that are open to anyone who is interested, he said. The next class is Nov. 9.

Schatz said making a little bit of an investment in software and systems can go a long way to keeping your information safe.

“The world is not the same anymore,” she said. “The name of the game is identity theft.”

People can also check out tips in a guide put out by the state, Protecting Yourself Online, which is available on pa.gov, with additional information to help prevent identity theft and other cybercrimes, as well as resources for victims.

Over the years, Pennsylvania has emerged as a leader in cybersecurity.

“Our staff works around the clock to monitor our networks and implement new protections to stay ahead of cyber attackers,” John MacMillan, deputy secretary of information technology, said. “We are also in regular contact with our partners in the federal government, other states and the private sector to share information on emerging threats.”

The Office of Administration is currently implementing Keystone Login, which will allow users to log into online services from multiple state agencies with the same account credential, improving both security and customer service.

The office also provides shared cybersecurity services to counties, cities and school districts, including security awareness training and anti-phishing exercises for employees. The office works with counties and the Department of State on election cybersecurity.

©2019 the Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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