Wake Forest University

Security Essentials

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Protect your data, account, and identity

There are many inherent risks in online computing, but with the appropriate security steps in place, you can greatly reduce your risk of malware infection, loss of data, and identity theft.

Be aware of common security risks

Phishing

Phishing scams are emails or other messages that appear to come from a known sender, but are actually sent by hackers or other dangerous entities. Phishing emails often ask a user to click on a fraudulent link, or request personal information such as a password or banking information.

Tips to avoid phishing:

  • Don’t click on a suspicious link, especially when you do not know the person. 
  • Don’t reply to emails that include a false sense of urgency, asking you to complete an action in order to avoid negative consequences. 
  • Don’t provide sensitive information of any kind. 
  • Check the “From” and “Reply-To” field in an email to inspect for suspicious email addresses. 
  • Hover your mouse over the link, before clicking on a link, and a text box should pop up with the complete link address. If the link is directing you to a suspicious or unknown website, don’t click on the link!

Ransomware

Ransomware encrypts your files so no one can access them without paying a fee. Once a computer is infected with ransomware, a message is displayed about how you can access files by paying a ransom. According to CSO Online, a ransomware attack costs an organization an average of $5 million and there is no guarantee that paying a ransom will allow you to regain access to your files.

Tips to avoid ransomware:

  • Ensure that your computer is up-to-date with the latest security patches to mitigate your risk.

Malware

Malware includes viruses and spyware, along with any other malicious software intended to do harm on your computer. Your computer can become infected by downloading an infected file or even using certain apps and games on social media platforms. Perhaps the most common way is by clicking on an infected link or attachment in an email. According to CSO Online, in 2018 92% of malware is estimated to have been delivered by email. 

Tips to avoid malware:

  • Bring-your-own-device users, including students, should install additional protection*. Refer to this page and Software@WFU for more information on installing antivirus and antispyware protection.
    *WFU-issued Windows computers have CISCO AMP (Advanced Malware Protection) antivirus software.

Enhance your mobile device security

According to CSO Online, smaller screen sizes on phones compared to computers, and the more limited information that they can provide, lead to an increase in users falling for phishing attacks on mobile devices. This does include email on a mobile device, but also includes text messages and messaging apps, where 83% of mobile device attacks occur. 

Tips to enhance your mobile device security:

  • Don’t connect to unknown or unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
  • Keep your apps and software up-to-date to reduce the likelihood of attacks. Consider turning on automatic updates. 
  • Delete apps you no longer use.
  • Be aware of Smising (SMS/text phishing) and Vishing (voice/phone call phishing). If you get an unexpected call or a strange text, be cautious!

Back-up your data

Ensuring that your data is backed up is critically important. Hard drives don’t last forever. Anything can happen to your computer at any time – hard drives fail, a laptop can be dropped, broken, or stolen, and data can become corrupted – ransomware can even encrypt your computer so you no longer have access to your files.

The only way to stay protected is to make sure your data resides in multiple places. Refer to our helpful Data Backup and Restore page explaining the various ways you can back up your data. 

If you are ever uncertain about an email, need additional information or would like training on cybersecurity topics, contact InfoSec at infosec@wfu.edu.