How protected are your computers and smartphones?

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(KTVI) - The majority of your computers are not well protected from on-line vulnerabilities, according to consumer reports.  Scott Schaffer of Blade Technologies joins John Pertzborn to give advice on how to protect yourselves and to also explain what some of us are doing wrong.

Helpful tips:

On your computer:
Twenty nine percent of home computers used to shop online were infected by malicious software in 2013. Aside from using security software (much of which can be downloaded free) and keeping your computer up-to-date, the best defense is to be a skeptical surfer. If a link on a web page or email looks suspicious, do not click on it.

On your smartphone:
Android phones are the target of choice for hackers, with 97 percent of new threats aimed at Android owners. With new threats developing daily, however, even Apple`s famously protected iPhone can be vulnerable. Be cautious when surfing the web on your phone.

On social media:
If you post and share information about upcoming events in your life, that information can get to thousands of people you do not know. Social media networks are a gold mine of information to help criminals figure out where you live, your daily habits, and personal information needed to update and change password reset forms. On a monthly basis, go through your friends and contacts, eliminating those with whom you have no personal contact. Check your privacy standards and keep them as restricted as possible. Be cautious when posting pictures of yourself and your children on social media sites.

At the doctor`s office: Criminals will pay extra for personal financial information that contains your medical history. Black out the last four digits of your Medicare card and only carry a copy with you when you are going to the doctor. Never carry any document on your person which includes your social security number. Be cautious when giving your social security number even at the doctor's office. You have the right to ask how it will be used, why it's needed and what will happen if you refuse to provide it.

In the cloud: The cloud is an online storage facility, great at storing and organizing, but the security records are faulty. If you use such a system, encrypt it with a free encryption service such as before you upload to it.

Where you shop: Set a minimum amount for use of a debit card. Every use of the card exposes you to a possible data breach. Do not use a debit card for less than $20. Use a credit card to swipe and pay. If you are breached, you are only liable up to $50. Use of the debit card could wipe out your entire bank account. If you must use a debit card, use it in the credit function with a signature and no PIN entered. If you must enter a PIN, cover the keyboard with your other hand. You may also pay by check.

When using Wi-Fi:

Coffee shops and other public area with open Wi-Fi networks are a fertile ground for cyber criminals. Logging on to social, shopping or banking networks exposes your information to anyone within Wi-Fi range. There are personal virtual private networks you can buy instead. Criminals may deliberately leave maliciously loaded USB drives in such areas hoping you will pick it up and plug it in, taking over your computer. Never plug in a USB device unless it is yours kept securely.

When choosing passwords: Choosing passwords is very difficult for many people. They either choose passwords too simple or their choices are so complex they quit using them out of frustration. Never use the same password for more than one account. Consumer Reports tested five products and highly recommended, which is free for your desktop and laptop. The service is $12 per year for your mobile device. LastPass will create or modify passwords which you can tailor for length and complexity and will store them for you. You only need to remember one master password to enter the system.

The Circuit Attorney`s Fraud Prevention Task Force aims to give St. Louisans the tools and education to protect themselves against fraud, theft and scams. If you believe you have been targeted by a scam, want more information on how to protect yourself from fraud, or would like to request a fraud prevention seminar for your organizations, neighborhood or office, call the hotline at 314-612-1412.

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