Computer code on a screen with a skull representing a computer virus / malware attack. (iStock)
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In the very first days that the Russia Ukraine war started, I warned you about 10 Russia-Ukraine cons to expect. We’re already seeing evidence of those scams in action. Be sure you’re keeping your digital guard up.
Smishing — the insider term for scam texts — is a popular route. Most people are less guarded scanning texts than emails. Look for these signs a text is bad news and how to report it.
Misinformation and misleading posts are slamming social media, too. Here are my tricks to spotting fake Russian accounts and posts.
As sanctions increase and Russia’s tactics intensify, it’s easy to think that you will not be affected aside from high gas prices. This idea is exactly what will get you into trouble—time to wake up.
What you need to know
In 2020, Russian hackers invaded several federal government agencies, including the nuclear weapons agency. That’s small potatoes of what could come. A Russian attack on our fiber optic cables or satellites would take down a ton of critical sectors, like internet traffic, banking, GPS, water treatment facilities, power plants, and the power grid.
Many cybersecurity experts predict large-scale Denial of Service attacks. This attack swamps a website with trillions of pings. The website is so busy answering each ping that it can’t respond to anything else. If this happens, government and private industry could take days or even months to sort out.
Wait, there’s more. Russia could launch phishing and other attacks to plant dangerous malware and ransomware on business and individual computers and networks.
Have a plan in case your internet goes down
Our minds jump to the worst-case scenario in times of distress. Say your internet goes out. Before blaming a large-scale attack, make sure the problem isn’t closer to home.
Tap or click here for the best apps you can use to troubleshoot your bad Wi-Fi for Android and iPhone. You can also check outage monitoring site Down Detector if only specific sites aren’t loading.
If your internet is out and you have cell service, you can use your phone as a hotspot. You need to set this ahead of time, so you’re comfortable using it.
Here’s how to turn your iPhone or Android into a mobile hotspot.
Have a plan for no cell service, too
When Michael Jackson died 13 years ago, so many people were calling one another the nation’s mobile phone system became overwhelmed and unusable. Hurricane Sandy flooded lower New York City in 2012. Again, mobile phones were the first service to go.
If America is hit with cyberattacks, expect to lose reliable service. Now is the time to work on your personal plan of what you and your family will do without working smartphones.
Nominate one person in your family (maybe that person is you) to check in regularly. Maybe it’s once a day; perhaps it’s once a week.
If there’s no cell connection, but your internet is working, use your texting app, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or another messaging option to keep in touch. Work out with your family and friends on the chosen platform ahead of time. The last thing you want to discover is a series of panicked WhatsApp messages hours later when you’ve been trying to communicate via Facebook Messenger.
Know that texting will often work even when cellular lines are jammed.
RELATED: Anyone can intercept your text messages – unless you take this step.
Find alternative charging methods
Full disclosure: I have a backup generator at my home. At first, I thought it was a complete waste of money. Now that the generator has automatically kicked in a few times when the power goes out, I am happy that I made the investment. Tap or click here for five solid options.
Generators aren’t the only way to go. We recently reviewed a solar option at Komando.com that can power up to 85% of appliances. It’s expensive but powerful for longer-term needs.
Alternatively, power banks are an affordable way to recharge your devices. Most power banks will hold a charge for a few months. This power bank from Anker has enough juice to charge two phones, and it’s around $20. This option is beefy enough to charge a laptop once or an iPhone 11 four times.
Solar-powered chargers work in a pinch. For about $50, this one from BLAVOR takes around 13 hours to recharge, then can power up an iPhone up to 4.5 times.
Stock up on your medications
A ransomware attack could compromise medication supplies. Email your doctor and ask for a 90-day prescription to be filled. Have them email it to you to print it out and take a hard copy to the pharmacy.
Better yet, create an online account with your pharmacy. This way, you can monitor any activity and make special requests. Getting 90-day prescriptions will not only keep you covered in case of supply issues, but you might also be able to save some money, too.
Tap or click here for help setting up an account with your pharmacy.
Lockdown your home network
Adjusting router settings can feel intimidating if you’ve never done it before. Start by logging into your router’s administration console. Every router has a different way of doing this; check your manual for specific instructions.
Don’t have a manual? Check the manufacturer’s site or tap or click to visit a site that compiles thousands of user manuals.
You want to look at the DHCP Client List or Attached Devices section. This shows what gadgets are connected to your router, typically listed by IP address, MAC address and/or name.
Figure out which ones belong to you. You should recognize your main computer’s name, and your tablet or smartphone should have the name of the manufacturer or model. If you can’t make sense of the list or identify certain devices, turn off each gadget one by one.
Tap or click here for more in-depth steps and instructions for locking your router to outsiders.
Enable antivirus if you’re not using it already
Much of today’s malware is sneaky enough to hide on your system without leaving many clues.
There are signs of infection.
Is your computer or phone using more data than usual? Are your devices getting hot to the touch for no reason? Maybe you see emails or texts in your outbox that you don’t remember sending. Tap or click for more clues your devices have been hacked.
A solid antivirus program can spot the signs that you can’t. I advise regularly scanning your system for malware, spyware, and other threats. My pick is TotalAV, a sponsor of my national radio show.
Data Breach Button on Computer Keyboard
Switch on your VPN, too
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a layer of protection between your devices and the internet. It hides your IP address and your location. It also encrypts your data after leaving your device and traveling to whatever website you’re visiting.
You want a VPN that doesn’t harvest and sell your information and one that works across several devices. Most of all, it must be fast and easy to use. I use ExpressVPN, a sponsor of my national radio show because it is all of this.
Extra steps for small business owners
Businesses are a bigger target than individuals. After all, that’s where the money is. If you run a business, you need to get your data in order. Ransomware threats are meaningless when you have a solid backup of all your essential information.
Tap or click for my pro tips to avoid ransomware and what to do if your company is attacked.
It’s also an excellent time to remind your employees not to open emails from unrecognized senders or download attachments they didn’t request. Phishing scams are too widespread and devastating to ignore. Tap or click here to learn how one phishing attack lets hackers read and send emails from your account.
Lastly, take a deep breath. This is not a time to panic or overreact, but bear in mind that the chances of cyberattacks on America have never been higher than right now.
Please share this story with your friends and family to make sure they’re prepared, too.
Bonus Tip: An unbelievable story about hackers hitting up a hospital for ransomware
Ransomware hackers recently hit a hospital, and everything from the cardiac machines to IV pumps stopped working. Doctors and nurses had to use pen and paper. There were no electronic patient records. But what happened when the hackers found out it was a hospital will undoubtedly surprise you.
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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters, and more, visit her website at Komando.com.