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How to have better web-security than the DNC: Protect yourself against phishing and hacking

By now, you’re probably ready to move on from the election and work to improve America’s greatness with a new Administration. What is clear is that web-security needs to be a priority for our government going forward. Similarly, it should be a priority for you as you look to protect donors, employees, and your entire organization from scammers, hackers, phishers, etc.

Here we’ll define some key ways nefarious actors can work to compromise your organizational security, and what you can do to protect yourself.

Hacking

Hacking is the process of weakness identification in computer systems and networks for their exploitation, in order to access the system. Hackers range from skilled computer programmers with knowledge of computer security to “script kiddies” who use premade tools to ruin your day.

But not all hackers are bad — white or gray hat hackers find vulnerabilities to expose them to the organizations they hacked so they may better protect themselves.

However, for those less altruistic hackers, here’s a few steps you can take to protect your organization:

  1. Change your passwords on a regular basis
  2. Use two-step verification
  3. Use different passwords for different applications
  4. Avoid using public WiFi, and at least use a VPN

Phishing

Phishing is different than hacking in that it requires a target to willingly share their information with the offending party. This is often done with scams (ie foreign Prince schemes), but it’s as much like hacking as credit card fraud is like burglary.

Protecting yourself against phishing requires more than software — it takes a keen eye to when someone is working to convince you to send over passwords, credit card information, and other info all willingly. Some general ways to protect yourself include steering VERY clear of the spam folder and other warnings online (such as the warnings your browser gives when entering a suspicious site).

However, there are some tools to help, and here’s a list with some of the most trusted.

Spyware/malware

Spyware and malware, while it can be installed via hacking, is usually installed willingly by the computer user. It is often packaged with other software, which legally “tricks” the user to opting in to the download. Spyware wreacks havoc on systems, slowing them down to the point of inoperability.

To avoid falling for Spyware:

  1. NEVER download from cnet.com, download.com, or any site which hosts many programs and isn’t a trusted app store like the Play store or Apple’s app store (though even downloads on these platforms can be spyware). Always download directly from the developer wherever possible.
  2. Avoid sites which are labelled as suspicious by Google and your email client.
  3. Download anti-spyware programs (but not from download.com, of course)

Additional Resources

How to Stop a Hacker – Scientific American

How to Remove Malware from your Windows PC – PC World

“Phishing” Fraud: How to Avoid Getting Fried by Phony Phishermen – SEC.gov

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