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Expert Outlines Top Cyber Protection Steps for Consumers

May 23, 2017

Giant cyberattacks and security breaches are scary for sure, but the average user of electronic devices should still be most concerned about personal identity theft on a much smaller scale, a network expert says.

And, says Associate Professor Raymond Hansen of Wentworth Institute of Technology, there are a few common-sense things that consumers can do to maintain control and help protect themselves.

“People don’t like to think about how insecure their devices and information really are,” says Hansen, an internet forensics specialist who came to Wentworth from Purdue University in January to help build a cybersecurity bachelor of science degree program at the Institute. 

Today billions of people own computing gadgets, whether cellphones, tablets, or laptop and desktop computers, and Hansen says that virtually all of those users take security for granted.

“When most of us access our mobile phones or log on to computers, we assume that nothing is going to go wrong.”

But he said identity threats are everywhere. For example, today people have access to hundreds of thousands of apps, many that come infected from third-party, unfamiliar sources. Consumers don’t use antimalware software on their devices, and they open links that they don’t recognize. People also are casually downloading dozens of apps only to leave them sitting on their mobile devices.

Meanwhile the average smartphone—more powerful combined than all the computers used to land a man on the moon—comes vulnerable, built for over-stuffing, says Hansen.

Hansen offers five tips for consumers, urging them to cut back on apps and games to keep their devices lean.

  • Run antimalware software on all mobile devices, not just laptops and desktop computers.
  • Only use apps from trusted places like the Google Play Store and Apple. Stay away from the unknowns, because many are only angling for your personal data.
  • Don’t download apps that you don’t have to have, and delete ones that you aren’t using. Hansen says he keeps only one or two apps on his mobile phone, for boarding passes when he travels.
  • Limit the number of game apps. Those can be big offenders when it comes to spreading viruses and surrendering personal information that you don’t want to share.
  • View all links with a suspicious eye and avoid clicking on them when in doubt, especially ones that lure you to “read this amazing story” or “get this for free.”  

—Dennis Nealon

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