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How to protect yourself from cyber crooks

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Posted at 5:02 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 11:09:17-04

TULSA, Okla. — Darla and Mark Cook take a walk every day as long as their health and disabilities let them.

Along with the day's weather, they worry what cyber crooks who attacked the city might be doing with their personal information. Fortunately, computer science experts like Dr. Tyler Moore, a professor with the University of Tulsa, said the potential danger to Tulsans personal information in this ransomware case is low.

"It's true. Your personal information, the information on utility bills, could be, in theory, at risk. But it's of low value to what the attackers are focusing their efforts on," Moore said.

Those attackers want to use that personal information as bargaining chips to force the city to pay their outrageous ransom. Moore said if the crooks sell or use the information, the crooks lose their blackmail clout. So, companies or cities won't pay ransom in the future. It's in the crook's financial interest to keep sensitive data secret. Still, Moore said everyone needs to take the cyberattack in Tulsa seriously.

The City of Tulsa said a recent ransomware attack is causing technical difficulties on various outward-facing programs that help City employees serve the citizens of Tulsa.

READ MORE: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The City of Tulsa's ransomware attack

"Anytime when there's a cybersecurity incident that comes close to home like this, it's always good to take a close look at your own cyber hygiene. Take steps to protect yourself," he said.

Moore said the first step is to secure your email account, which attackers can use as a backdoor to steal your money.

"It's something people don't think of. Oh, it's only my email. So, it's not that valuable, but their email can actually provide some of the keys of the kingdom if you're not careful," Moore said.

Be careful about keys to your bank, credit card, and other online accounts, most of which have your email attached to them. So, Moore recommends you set up two-step verification for signing in to your email.

"That's really a powerful defense," he said.

Secure your email and other online accounts by turning on two-step verification. Use strong passwords by using a password manager if possible to create random and unique passwords. Avoid clicking on links by creating bookmarks for websites that you often visit, and use those bookmarks instead of incoming emails. Check your credit report regularly and freeze your credit if possible. Credit bureaus are required to do that for free.

Experts said the pandemic has been a gold mine for cyber kidnappers. With so many people working from home on their unsecured personal computers, many of us have become valuable targets of cybercriminals, making it even more important to make sure our home computers are secure.

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