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.

June 2021

Watch out for rental scams

When applying to rent a home, prospective renters often need to provide landlords with personal information like their Social Security number, rental history and employment information. Watch out for fake apartment listings that aim to steal that personal information. If an apartment has a price that is too good to be true, it likely is. Look up the landlord or rental company online to make sure they are real.


When on public Wi-Fi networks use a VPN

Public Wi-Fi without a password is unencrypted, meaning your data can be intercepted while using it. Think about setting up a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your connection and shield your activities from prying eyes on public networks. If not, try to look for “semi-public” alternatives such as coffeeshop/restaurant Wi-Fi with a requestable password.


Watch out for unemployment identity theft

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, some states have seen surges in fraudulent unemployment claims. It can be difficult to know if someone has claimed unemployment using your identity. Look out for notices from your state’s unemployment office or, if you are employed, your employer. If you are a victim of unemployment identity theft, report it to your state using these steps.


Check to see how frequently software vendors produce updates

The more often you update the software on your computer, the better. Programs that haven’t been updated lately are easier for hackers to attack, making your whole system more vulnerable to malware. Before you download software onto your device, check with the vendor to see how often they come out with updates. Big name software vendors like Microsoft typically release new software every month. For smaller vendors, it might be every few months or so.


Protect your computer with security software

Regularly updating security software can protect your family against scammers, hackers, malware and other online threats that can compromise your computer system and, consequently, your family’s financial security and other private information. Using software security that automatically updates — like our Ultimate Internet Security — keeps your technology current and decreases the likelihood of picking up bad programs or malware.


Keep your master password in a safe or lockbox

If you use a password manager to store your passwords — which you should! — you’ll need a master password that gets you into the application. It’s important to not forget this password, and it’s also essential to keep it secure. Write it down, put it in a sealed envelope and put that envelope in a secured location, like a safe or a lockbox.


Use a cloud-based solution for backups

While local backups are generally safe, sometimes, malware or ransomware can spread to the backed up files. Additionally, a USB drive or external hard drive could get lost or destroyed, taking all of your files with it. A cloud-based backup solution is an internet service that stores all of your files online, Total Defense internet suite products offer online backup . Viruses and malware on your computer won’t affect your files, and they aren’t subject to the risk of loss or damage faced by hard copies.


Remind your kids never to give out personal information

Help kids remember that cybersecurity should always be a priority and not to share info such as name, home address, or telephone number, to anyone they don’t know through email, TikTok, Facebook, or other online forums. Talk with your children about the online risks of interacting with strangers through the computer and sending notes and pictures into cyberspace.


Use filters or tagging to reduce spam

Most email programs offer filtering capabilities that allow you to block certain addresses or to allow only email from addresses on your contact list. Many ISPs also offer spam tagging services that allow the user the option to review supposed spam messages before they are deleted. Spam tagging can be useful in combination with filtering capabilities provided by many email programs.


If you rebuild a system from a backup, update it

You can rebuild your computer system if everything is backed up, but it’s possible some of the programs you reinstall will be outdated. This subjects your computer to possible malware or ransomware attacks. That’s why you need to remember to update the software on your computer after rebuilding a system from a backup.


Contact your state health department to ensure a contact tracer is real

The Federal Trade Commission warned of fake contact tracers trying to gather personal information from consumers. For reference, a contact tracer will never ask you for money or ask for any personal financial information, nor will they ask about your immigration status or send you links to download. If a supposed contact tracer does any of these things, see if your state health department can tell you if the contact tracer is real or fake.


Take care of external hard drives

External hard drives are valuable parts of a backup strategy, even if you also use a cloud-based solution. Make sure to keep it in a safe place when using one, where it won’t fall or get buried under other objects. Think about transferring its contents to other media after 4 years, when the risk of drive failure dramatically increases for most HDD models.


Watch out for sloppy emails, they could be phishing scams

Phishing emails are intended to fool you into clicking a link or attachment. To do so, they imitate the look and feel of official corporate or government communications. You can fight back by not engaging with any email that has a long/garbled sender address or subject line, is filled with typos and odd formatting, or comes from someone you don’t know


Test that your backups are working properly

Backing up your data is important, but only if it’s being backed up correctly. If the backups are failing, you won’t be able to retrieve your documents, and you will have taken that precaution in vain. Test that your backups are working every so often by retrieving and opening a file. That way, if you get attacked by malware or ransomware, you will know that your files are safely stored.


Enable automatic backups on your Macbook or Windows PC

Backing up the data on your computer every so often is recommended. It protects against malware or ransomware wiping out important data on your device. The more often, the better. You can enable automatic backups with Apple Time Machine or Windows Backup and Restore. This allows you to “set it and forget it,” enabling backups as often as every hour, if you choose.


Don’t trust old unsupported applications

Once an application is no longer maintained by its producer via updates for security and functionality, it’s dicey to use since you might not even know what unpatched exploits it contains. Old versions of QuickTime, Windows (especially XP) and many other everyday programs are perfect examples and should be avoided in favor of new ones.


Know the difference between a contact tracer and a scammer

In order to track the spread of the coronavirus, contact tracers might reach out to you if you took a COVID-19 test or if someone you know has tested positive. You should be aware of the signs for when someone is pretending to be a contact tracer, but is really a scammer trying to get personal information from you. Contact tracers will only ask your name and address, health information and the names of places you’ve gone or people you have visited over the past few days.