TRR photo by Susan Wade

Consumers at a Jeff Bank-sponsored seminar held at the Sunshine Hall Free Library arm themselves with information to deal with the onslaught of cybersecurity concerns.

Keep calm and use ALT-F4

ELDRED, NY — For anyone with a computer, tablet or cell phone, cybersecurity is an issue. In the wake of the Equifax data breach, consumers have become more concerned about maintaining confidentiality of their personal information.

Leanne Stuhlmiller, assistant vice president and information security officer at First National Bank of Jeffersonville, recently addressed security concerns to a group of 20 at the Sunshine Hall Free Library. 

Stuhlmiller covered several areas of vulnerability ranging from dumpster diving to email phishing and offered some common sense practices to follow. Among them were shredding documents that contain any sensitive information such as account numbers and Social Security numbers. She recommended that, with caller ID readily available now, phone calls originating from unknown numbers should not be answered. Calls can be made to look like they are being placed from local numbers when they are being placed from overseas. If a call or email comes from a company suggesting that some questionable activity be taken such as providing personal or financial information, it is best to hang up the phone or disconnect from the computer site immediately. The company should be contacted directly utilizing a phone number or email address obtained independently rather than utilizing a redial or reply function.

When pop-up messages appear on a computer screen, the best way to back out of the offending site is to use the keys ALT and F4 rather than to use the cancel key or to “X” out of the pop-up.

Users were admonished not to open attachments in emails received from unknown senders or even from known senders if no sensible message accompanies the attachment or computer site link. It is best to check with the sender if that person is known to you by sending a separate email or using the “forward” function rather than “reply.”

Other practical precautions offered were to assure that anti-virus software is installed and updated routinely. Immediately install patches or updates provided to the operating system. Data should be backed up routinely to an independent source, whether an external hard drive or to the cloud. Also, watch for the “s” in the beginning of a website address; “https” indicates a secure address, but in some cases hackers have even spoofed these addresses.

The use of strong passwords, changed every two to three months was stressed. A password should contain at least 12 characters utilizing upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. 

Free credit reports can be obtained annually at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877/322-8228. The major credit reporting companies are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. The requests can be made throughout the year rather than all at once to provide more up-to-date information.

The last topic addressed was the Equifax breach. It was strongly suggested that all consumers sign up for fraud alert, in which you will be notified if a company is seeking financial information on you. Further concerns can be addressed by obtaining a security freeze, which blocks potential creditors from being able to view or pull your credit file. A “thaw” or “unfreeze” can occur if applying for a loan, credit card, etc. There is a cost to obtain a security freeze, but through Equifax a fraud alert can be obtained for free for a predetermined period of time if requested before January 2018.

 

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