Communications Office: Stephen Mease
BURLINGTON, Vt. (Dec. 17, 2012)— A cyber security expert at Champlain College is advising people to be on the lookout for online hoaxes and fraudulent e-mails designed to capitalize on their vulnerabilities in the wake of a tragedy like the Newtown, Conn. shootings and the hectic holiday shopping season.
Duane Dunston, an instructor in the Champlain College Division of Information Technology & Sciences, advises that cyber criminals often try to take advantage of tragic events by sending emails with viruses or programs that can harm computers or compromise or steal a person's identity and financial information.
"Having worked in the industry of cyber security for so long, I've seen it happen too many times, but it can AND does happen. It happens during all major tragic events," Dunston said Monday.
Champlain College offers a CyberSecurity specialization for students in its Computer Networking and Information Security major. The Computer Networking & Information Security major provides a foundation for understanding how computers and networks communicate securely. The CyberSecurity specialization builds on that foundation with courses designed to help students understand the nature and impact of cyber threats, as well as how to prevent them.
Dunston offers the following advice for the days ahead while shopping online and tracking major news stories:
Be careful of email messages that claim to have photos, videos, recent updates, etc. regarding any major events.
Be careful of charities that ask for money and require you to donate using your credit card via their website. Also, be wary of people on the street with "Donations" to the victims of the tragedy. They'll use all sorts of psychological tricks, including having photos or other visual reminders to spark an emotional reaction or solicit stories from you or have you "think of your own family being affected." During a major event, check with the local Red Cross or the Red Cross website for official ways to assist those in need. http://www.redcross.org/
This time of year the phishing email attempts kick into high gear especially with the use of bogus delivery confirmation messages. Be very careful with those messages, especially if you ordered a package and you are waiting on a confirmation.
Phishers attempt to gather information from you by throwing out bait (a fake email from your bank requesting your username and password) and hoping you'll bite; thus, the term "phishing." Some best practices include:
Dunston also noted that during the holiday season, some reputable companies will hire a third-party organization to handle the financial transactions. Some organizations will do that to minimize the load on their system. Using a secure site uses up more resources because everything is being encrypted (scrambling your financial information) so someone can't easily see your financial information across the Internet. During the holidays, many companies get 100 to 200 times more visits than normal so it is not unusual to be redirected to another website to handle a financial transaction. He suggests:
"It is important, Dunston said, to be sure you have the latest antivirus software. This will help find programs such as keyloggers, backdoors, or other malicious programs that attempt to capture personal information.
"It really comes down to being aware," Dunston said. "If you shop with Amazon.com, for example, you can be pretty much be assured that your credit card information is being sent over a secure connection. The risk of your credit card being stolen online is about the same as giving it to someone at a store or at a restaurant."
The Better Business Bureau has some good information here.
Learn more about the cybersecurity program by clicking here.
Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Quebec and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 60 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 379 Colleges: 2015 Edition. Champlain was named a "Top-Up-and-Coming School" by U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges and is ranked in the top tier of 2014 Regional Colleges in the North. For more information, visit www.champlain.edu.