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Best Practices for Consumers: Staying Secure Online

Posted By TRWA Commmunications, Monday, July 8, 2019

As more people and businesses use online services, they become more vulnerable to cyber criminals and hackers. Water utilities abide by certain practices to best protect the utility and its customers’ information, but there are additional measures consumers can take to minimize your risk.


Credit Card Processing

Although a water system’s billing processes are Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliant, incorporating a few practices into your daily routine can help keep your cards and account numbers safe. For example, keep a record of your account numbers, their expiration dates and the phone number to report fraud for each company in a secure place.

Do your best to only use established businesses that you can contact easily if there’s an issue. Look for sites with “https:” in their web addresses — as the “s” stands for secured. Even if you’re on a secured site, don’t share your information unless you have to and you know how it will be used.

Furthermore, don’t share your account information to anyone via phone or email unless you’ve made the call to a company you know to be reputable. Avoid sharing this information via email unless you have encrypted it in a reliable way.


Identifying Spam and Scams: Gone Phishing

Phishing is a type of online scam where you receive an email that appears to be from a legitimate company or individual, but instead is a scam intended to solicit sensitive information from you in one way or another. This is usually done by providing a link to what appears to be a reputable website but is really a façade and the information you provide instead ends up in the wrong hands. More sophisticated scams include using the names of recognizable colleagues who are likely not to be in the office, requests to update account information or fraudulent links to share documents or information. To protect yourself from phishing scams, here are a few things you can do:

  • Review the email address – Is it actually coming from a credible address, or is the display just piggybacking on a trustworthy organization or individual? If the email is not addressed to you specifically, pay closer attention to the text and context of the email. Sometimes the reply path email address is different than the sending email address, which is another great indicator that the email is fraudulent.
  • Confirm credibility – Before making any purchases or agreements, confirm details through a second communication channel (phone, text or in-person confirmation). Often, repeated grammatical errors and resistance to further or different communication indicate foul play. If sentences or word placement do not make sense, or the wrong words are capitalized throughout the body of the email, stop skimming and pay closer attention.

Best Practices for Cyber Users

Here are a few general tips to help ensure your sensitive information stays out of the wrong hands:

  • Identify your most sensitive accounts, such as your bank account, and be intentional about elevating their security.
  • Use “$tr0ng3R” passwords and update them regularly. There are several smartphone apps that you can use to securely store your passwords.
  • Equip yourself for success by layering your protection: A password is the first line of defense against cybercriminals. When possible, use multifactor authentication (security systems that require more than one method of authentication from independent categories of credentials to verify the user's identity for a login or other transaction) for an added layer of protection.
  • Keep your operating system, browser and other critical software up to date with the latest security patches to minimize vulnerabilities.
  • Be cautious of what you share and engage with on public Wi-Fi; limit the amount of personal information you share online or elsewhere.
  • Monitor your accounts regularly, respond to fraud alerts and report unauthorized transactions promptly.
  • Avoid clicking website pop up ads or bad links. Before clicking on anything stop, think and check if it is expected, valid and trusted. If you accidentally engage with a fraudulent website, use the task manager to kill the process. If you are unable to do this, hard restart your device.

 

All consumers should stay alert and reduce their likelihood of an attack by proceeding with caution – there’s no magic solution to avoiding breaches of cybersecurity, but the more safeguards you take, the better.

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