Cyberattacks are malicious attempts to access or damage a computer or network system. Cyberattacks can lead to the loss of money or the theft of personal, financial and medical information. These attacks can damage your reputation and safety.
How Cyber Attacks Can Occur
- Accessing your personal computer, mobile phone, gaming system, and other internet- and Bluetooth-connected devices
- Installing ransomware and malware on your device
- Damaging your financial security, including identity theft
- Blocking your access to or deleting your personal information and accounts or changing your passwords.
- Complicating your employment or business services
- Impacting transportation and the power grid
Steps and information from FEMA's Ready.gov site and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) can help you build your personal plan, protect your business, know what to do during an attack, and recover from an incident quickly.
You can avoid cyber risks by taking steps in advance:
- Limit the personal information you share online. Change privacy settings, do not use location features, and use two-factor authentication.
- Keep software applications and operating systems up to date with patches and other updates.
- Create strong passwords by using upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Watch for suspicious activity that asks you to do something right away, offers something that sounds too good to be true, or needs your personal information. Think before you click. When in doubt DO NOT CLICK.
- Remember, the government will not call, text, or contact you via social media about owing or refunding money.
- Scammers may try to take advantage of financial fears by calling you with work-from-home opportunities, debt consolidation offers, student loan repayment plans, or car warranty information. Unless you are contacting these service providers yourself, do not click any links or take any calls from them.
- Be wary of emails from businesses, even if it is a business you use everyday. Hackers can create authentic looking emails with banners, icons, and links that look to be real. Hover over (but never click) any link in an email and check the link to make sure it is valid and look at spelling and grammatical contexts. Think before you click. When in doubt, DO NOT CLICK.
- Protect your home and business by using a secure Internet connection and Wi-Fi network. Be sure to change the factory default password as soon as you can and change the passwords on a regular basis.
- Don't share PINs or passwords, and be sure to not let anyone "shoulder surf" who can see your password. Use devices that use biometric scans when possible (like a fingerprint scanner or Face ID).
- Check your account statements and your credit reports regularly. You can get up to three free credit reports from Annual Credit Report.com . This is a FREE service authorized through the Federal Trade Commission.
- Be cautious about sharing your personal financial information such as your bank account number, Social Security number or credit card number. Only share personal information on secure sites that begin with https:// that you, yourself, have typed in. Do not use sites with invalid certificates. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) instead of free public wi-fi that is open to anyone to see activity on.
- Use and update antivirus and anti-malware solutions to help block threats.
- Back up your files regularly in an encrypted file of encrypted file storage device.
- Check your credit card and bank statements for unrecognized charges. Lock any credit cards or accounts if you see suspicious activity and contact that bank or credit card company's fraud department.
- Check your credit reports for any new accounts or loans you didn't open.
- Be alert for emails and social media users that ask for private information.
- You cannot pay parking fines, get out of jury duty, or conduct any type of business with government agencies using gift cards. If you are in doubt of a collections effort, hang up and contact the service provider yourself.
- If you notice strange activity, limit the damage by changing all of your internet account passwords immediately. Do not use the same password across multiple internet and social media accounts.
- Consider turning off the device that has been affected. Take it to a professional to scan for potential viruses and remove any they find. Remember: a company will NOT call you and ask for control of your computer to fix it. This is a common scam.
- Run a security scan on your device to make sure your system is not infected or acting more slowly or inefficiently.
- Contact your bank, credit card companies, and other financial services companies where you hold accounts. You may need to place holds on accounts that have been attacked. Close any unauthorized credit or charge accounts and report that someone may be using your identity.
- File a report with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office so there is an official record of the incident.
- File a report with the Office of the Inspector General if you think someone is using your Social Security number illegally.
- Also, contact the Social Security Administration at 800-269-0271 if your Social Security number was compromised.
- File a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). They will review the complain and refer it to the appropriate agency.
- Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Contact the FTC if you receive messages from anyone claiming to be a government agent.
- Report online crime or fraud to your local United States Secret Service (USSS) Electronic Crimes Task Force or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
- Cyberattack information sheet (PDF)
- Stop. Think. Connect. TM Campaign (DHS)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation Cyber Crime Unit
- National Cyber Security Alliance (a non-profit organization empowering a more secure interconnected world)
- NetSmartz from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, this site provides age-appropriate videos and activities to help teach children to be safer online.
- iKeepSafe - a safe digital landscape for children, schools, and families
- iSafe certifies digital products as compliant with state and federal requirements for handling protected personal information.
- Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice (FTC)
- Free Credit Report information (FTC Consumer Advice page)
- Ransomware prevention information (CISA)