Total Defense

Security & Safety Resource Center

Learn about today's current internet threats and how to stay safe and secure.

Security Tip of the Day

Daily tips to create awareness of cyber threats and empower Total Defense users to be safer and more secure online.

March 2019

Block unfamiliar phone numbers, especially if they repeatedly call you

Phone call spam has gotten much worse throughout the 2010s, with many people receiving multiple scam calls per day. Most smartphones allow specific numbers to be blocked, which is advisable for any number that you don’t know and aren’t expecting any calls from.


How do you defend against cryptojacking?

Use Cybersecurity best practices to help you protect your internet-connected systems and devices against cryptojacking. Use and maintain antivirus software, it recognizes and protects a computer against malware, allowing the owner or operator to detect and remove a potentially unwanted program before it can do any damage. Keep software and operating systems up-to-date so that attackers cannot take advantage of known problems or vulnerabilities.


On this day in history – Witty worm exploits holes in IBM products

March 19, 2004: The Witty worm is a record-breaking worm in many regards. It exploited holes in several IBM Internet Security Systems products. It was the first worm to take advantage of vulnerabilities in the very pieces of software designed to enhance network security, and carried a destructive payload, unlike previous worms and it spread rapidly using a pre-populated list of ground-zero hosts.


Double-check any new and unfamiliar website for phishing signs

Visiting a website for the first time, perhaps via an email link? Look for the tell-tale signs of phishing. These include misspellings and grammatical mistakes on the page, aggressive advertising and especially unusual and complex URLs. If you see some or all of them, leave the page immediately.


Dealing with Cyberbullies – avoid escalating the situation

Responding with hostility is likely to provoke a cyberbully and escalate the situation. Depending on the circumstances, consider ignoring the issue. Often, bullies thrive on the reaction of their victims. Other options include subtle actions. For example, you may be able to block the messages on social networking sites or stop unwanted emails by changing the email address. If you continue to get messages at the new email address, you may have a stronger case for legal action.


What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a technology that allows devices to communicate with each other without cables or wires. It is an electronics “standard,” which means that manufacturers that want to include this feature have to incorporate specific requirements into their electronic devices. These specifications ensure that the devices can recognize and interact with other devices that use the Bluetooth technology.


Avoid paying with a credit card swipe if possible

Modern credit cards often have three mechanisms for in-person purchases – swiping, chip insertion and tapping. From a security perspective, the latter two are much more secure and should be used if available. Mobile tap-to-pay solutions like Apple Pay and G Pay are also very secure.


Be wary of publicly accessible computers

Cybercriminals may have infected these computers with viruses or install malicious software One example is keylogger malware which, when installed, captures the keystrokes of the computer’s users and sending this information to criminals via email. Through this malware, criminals are able to receive users’ personal information, such as name, credit card numbers, birthdates, and passwords.


Watch out for fake coupons in emails

Many phishing scams involve the phisher posing as a major retailer and then sending emails claiming to contain coupons that you redeem by clicking them in an email. To stay safe, never click on one of these offers if it seems to good to be true, comes from a long/garbled email address or is contained in a message with odd grammar and typos.


Change your passwords regularly, or immediately in the case of a breach

Creating a strong password is only part of the password battle. You also need to update it regularly to hedge against the possibility it’s been compromised. If there’s a publicly disclosed data breach that affects your account, then you’ll want to change your password immediately.  


Create a bookmarks list for websites

All major desktop and mobile browsers let you create bookmarks for individual websites, which can be clicked/tapped from a list to visit the site in question. It might seem like a trivial feature, but it’s actually a good security enhancement, since it spares you from needing to manually type in URLs or click on links in emails or other collateral – you always have a safe saved copy of the address you can visit with a single touch.


Think before you connect to any public Wi-Fi hotspot

Like on an airplane or in an airport, hotel, train/bus station or café-be sure to confirm the name of the network and exact login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure that the network is legitimate. Using your mobile network connection is generally more secure than using a public Wi-Fi network.


Be careful with URL typos

URL typos aren’t always harmless – the slightly misspelled website might actually be a registered domain that could put your device in harm’s way. The risk has grown as the number of top-level domains has increased; instead of just .com or .org, now there’s also .xyz, .capital and many more. Double-check any URL you type for correct spelling and punctuation before trying to visit it.


Be mindful of opaque in-app subscriptions

You might have a few active subscriptions, perhaps to services for video or music streaming. The subscription model has also migrated to apps, some of which present them in very confusing ways that involve you getting a free trial that segues into a expensive annual subscription that can be surprisingly difficult to cancel. Read carefully if ever offered any options containing the words “free,” “trial,” “plan” or “subscription.”


Watch out for page-hijacking advertisement on mobile devices

Ads designed for mobile devices can be assertive and disruptive. For example, you might be loading a page in a browser only to see a message telling you you’ve won a prize and then redirecting you to a different page. Never click on anything these ads show you. To avoid them entirely, it might be worth activating a content blocker on your phone or tablet.


Disable auto-connect features and always log out

Turn off features on your computer or mobile devices that allow you to connect automatically to Wi-Fi. Once you’ve finished using a network or account, be sure to log out.


Check your spam folder occasionally

Modern email spam filters are very powerful and can keep many common threats at bay without them ever hitting your inbox. Still, it’s advisable to periodically take a look at your spam folder to see if the filter is too aggressive and is blocking mail you want to see. Marking items as spam or not spam can help the filter become more accurate for your requirements.


Secure your mobile devices

Use strong passwords or touch ID features to lock your devices. These security measures can help protect your information if your devices are lost or stolen and keep prying eyes out.


Pay attention to how you charge your devices

Just because a connector fits your device doesn’t mean you should use it for charging. Unlicensed third-party cables might damage your phone or PC. There’s also the more subtle risk of quicker-than-normal battery degradation through fast-charging. All batteries lose their ability to hold a charge over time, but high-voltage charging accelerates this process.


Keep a paper copy of your passwords, just in case

Losing a critical password can be disastrous, locking you out of a key account like online banking or email. Password managers are useful for keeping track of your credentials. As another layer of security, you can also write down passwords and keep them in a very safe location. Paper-based backup has the advantage of being completely offline and inaccessible to hackers.


Install your big software updates overnight

While many updates to operating systems and applications are minor and take just a few minutes to complete, others are huge and make require hours. To minimize delays and hassle, it’s a good idea to schedule updates overnight, when you’re not using the device and when update servers aren’t as busy. This will also help you avoid issues like the rush of people trying to update their devices on gift-giving holidays like Christmas.