We know that cybercrime goes up when high-profile news stories break. Phishing emails, ransomware, and financial scams targeting companies, schools, and individuals grew significantly during COVID outbreaks, the creation of fiscal stimulus packages, and election controversies. Savvy threat actors are going to try their best to capitalize upon the anxiety, fear, and emotion many of us will be dealing with during uncertain times.  We don’t know what will happen next nor do we have all the answers.  But we do know that focusing on fundamental cybersecurity practices is key to protecting yourself at home and at the College. 

Here are things you can do to help protect yourself and our herd.

  1. Stop and think when going through emails and texts. Be suspicious of emails that are urgent or compelling.  Trust your instincts. If a message seems odd or too good to be true, even if it's from someone you know well - be cautious and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  If you wish to donate to any causes in support of recent events, make sure you are donating to a well-known, trusted charity.  There will be many scams attempting to trick people into donating to fake charities run by cyber criminals.

  2. Don’t open attachments unless you know the sender and you’re expecting the document.  Mouse over (or long press on) links to make sure they are going someplace you want to go.  Simple changes in a website address can take you places that are meant to trick you into giving, doing or sharing things you did not intend.  Verify before you click, open or share.

  3. Only accept DUO or other 2FA prompts when YOU are initiating a login. If you receive a DUO or 2FA prompt when you are not attempting to log in or if the prompt comes via an unfamiliar method, it may be a bad actor attempting to gain access to your account.

  4. If you receive an email or text asking you to provide or change personal information, send money, or log in to an account, call the sender directly using the phone number or website you know (not the one in the email) to confirm the message is genuine.

  5. Keep your computers, devices and apps updated.  Cyber attackers are constantly looking for new vulnerabilities in the devices and software you use.  Keeping them automatically updated makes sure these known weaknesses are fixed and your devices have the latest security features.

  6. Be wary of information from new, unknown or random social media accounts, such as posts on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.  Follow well-known, trusted news sources who verify the authenticity of information before they broadcast it. 

  7. Immediately report any suspicious messages or unusual computer activity to the IT Help Desk at (413) 542 - 2526, email us at AskIt@amherst.edu, or please fill out a Help Request Form.

We know that times like these can feel a bit scary, but please use the tips above to protect yourself and our herd.  If you have any questions, contact the IT Help Desk at AskIT.