BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and 7 News spoke with experts in the field to discover ways for internet users to stay safe online.
Dr. Arun Vishwanath said the biggest issue in cybersecurity is phishing — otherwise known as “social engineering.” This is when hackers use deceptive tactics to get an individual to give personal information or money.
Dominic Sellitto, clinical assistant professor at University at Buffalo School of Management, said phishing is often used through psychological tactics involving urgency. For example, a hacker pretending to be an individual’s boss and asking them to send over money immediately, or a hacker pretending to be a family member and asking for instant financial assistance.
“They [the hackers] try to create that stress in you that’s going to cause you to think less critically,” Sellitto said. “They’ll try to hit on those emotional weak points that we have when we’re most vulnerable.”
Experts said these phishing attacks are getting more sophisticated, often seen in the form of artificial intelligence.
“There are tools that are able to clone our voices just based off of a couple clips of us speaking,” Sellitto said.
Phishing can also be seen in the form of deep fakes — the visual altering of a person’s appearance to make them look like someone else.
Dr. Vishwanath said deep fakes are becoming more common, especially when creating fake explicit photos of minors. Unfortunately, he said they are hard to stop.
“The scary thing is almost all of this is accessible,” Dr. Vishwanath said. “You don’t need to know coding. You don’t need any major technology skills to use it. They are all freely available, for the most part. All you need to do is create a login and password to create a deep fake on a website.”
The best way to prevent these phishing attacks?
Sellitto said take a few moments to think critically.
“The biggest thing that people can do is take a couple seconds and stop,” Sellitto recommended.
Dr. Vishwanath urged all internet users to consciouslly practice good “cyber hygiene.”
“Cyber hygiene is the ability to resist attacks, to react if you have something that is coming to you that is suspicious and to recover if you’re attacked.”
Dr. Vishwanath said it’s important to use simple tactics to make it hard for a hacker to access your information.
“What we learned about the psychology of hackers is that, for the most part, the vast majority of hackers look for easy targets.”
How to stop being an “easy target” for hackers:
- Create strong and unique passwords that are different for each application
- Turn on two-factor authentication
- Set your social media accounts to “private” and avoid oversharing your personal life
- Update your devices when updates become available
- Perform an “annual checkup” to get rid of any digital clutter/accounts you no longer use
- Use an online password manager to keep your passwords safe and in one place
- Directly confirm with family or friends if they ask for something online before taking any action
- Create a digital wallet that informs you instantly when your account has been used