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The internet is an incredible tool for so many things like finding a new recipe or setting up a retirement fund. But when we hear about high-profile cybercrimes like the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, you may wonder just how many hackers are waiting for the opportunity to steal your precious data. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to protect your online data. You just need a little awareness about cybercrime and what it takes to deter it.

Phishing and How to Combat It

Phishing is one of the most common forms of cybercrimes. It involves sending fraudulent messages (usually via email) that claim to be from a reliable sender. Phishers may impersonate your bank, your favorite shopping site, or even one of your coworkers. The goal of a phishing message is to get you to click on a link that can do things like download a virus onto your computer without you knowing.

You can fend off many phishing attempts yourself. The only weapon required is your brain.

  • First, be wary of texts and emails with language that attempts to scare you into acting immediately. For example, think twice before panicking over a message that says: “Your account will be shut down unless you provide this personal information” YIKES! 

  • Your bank or other financial institutions should reach out to you directly about a security concern and ask you to call them to address an issue. They will never try to scare you or ask for your personal account information via email or text message. When in doubt, call the business that has reached out to you—using a phone number you know is theirs—and tell them you received a message about your account and you’re not sure if it’s real. They will tell you if the message you received was legitimate or a phishing attempt.

  • If you receive an email that contains a link, you can make sure the link leads to a legitimate webpage by hovering your cursor over it and reading the full web address shown in the pop-up window next to it. The URL shouldn’t be a string of letters and numbers, or words that are unrelated to the business that has contacted you.

  • Another thing to remember about email:  pay attention to the sender’s email address. It may closely resemble that of a trusted source but differ by a few characters or contain a misspelling. If an email claims to be from a source that knows you (such as a coworker or your personal bank), the message should never begin with a generic greeting like, “Dear Valued Customer.”

  • Finally, never share personal account information over text or email.

Malware and How to Combat It

Malware is a broad term for computer software that contain viruses, worms, and other harmful files or programs. Cybercriminals use malware to steal your files, damage them, or hold them for ransom. You may be able to avoid malware by exercising caution around links and attachments, but cybercriminals are constantly developing new tactics, and you may not always be able to spot them.

It’s not as easy to defend yourself against malware, but there are a few ways to protect your data just in case you’re the victim of malware attack.

  • Keep your data backed up on an internet cloud or an external hard drive.

  • Protect important accounts by using multi-factor authentication on all your devices.

  • Change your passwords regularly.

  • Make sure you’re using the latest version of your web browser to surf the web.

Get Pre-Installed Protection

The most surefire way to protect your data, though, is to protect your computer with a firewall and virus protection. You can save some time and money by purchasing a computer with security software pre-installed rather than purchasing and installing it yourself.

If you’re in the market for a new computer, check out Aaron’s all-purpose desktops, gaming desktops, all-in-one laptops, convertible laptops, and gaming laptops with Total Defense Internet Security pre-installed. Total Defense helps protect your device from viruses, spyware, ransomware, and other malware threats.

If you’d like to learn more about cybercrime and get more tips about how to stay safe online, visit the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) website at