For those who like to follow the latest celebrity gossip, a simple Internet search may spell disaster. Cyber criminals quickly shift their malicious websites to celebrities who are trending in the news. These websites try to steal personal information or install viruses, spyware or malware on your computer or mobile device. In some cases, a website boasting to have a celebrity video will ask you to download an update to your browser’s video plug-in. Instead, malware is downloaded.
Celebrities are not the only searches that yield dangerous results. Others include free music downloads, song lyrics, free games, and free seasonal templates, like holiday invitations. Cyber threats also try to capture users with promises of “shocking” or “secret” videos or images of current news events.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to keep you safe from cyber attacks:
• Be cautious when searching. Any download claiming to be “free” could cost you a stolen identity or infected computer. Instead, search official and trusted news sites that don’t require any downloads.
• Never click on links in emails from strangers. Instead delete them.
• Be cautious of links in emails from friends, especially if the email is unusual. Your friend’s email account may have been hacked.
• Don’t download that “required” software on strange sites. In most cases your computer or device already has the most recent version needed for regular browsing.
• Keep your operating system, antivirus and anti-malware software up to date.
• Consider downloading a trusted security add-on for your browser from a well-known company. These add-ons will alert you to many unsafe and inappropriate sites.
• Beware of security software from a Web pop-up or unknown site claiming to have scanned your computer and found malware or viruses. Don’t download it. This is another trick from cyber scammers to gain access to your computer and personal information.
If you’ve fallen victim to a cyber attack, you can report it at the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.
For more tips you can trust, visit the BBB blog at www.bbb.org/blog/ or call your local BBB office at (509) 455-4200.
By Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor