In the very first days of the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, I warned you about 10 Russian-Ukrainian counterattacks to be expected. We are already seeing evidence of these scams in action. Be sure to keep your digital guard up.
Smishing – the insider term for scam texts – is a popular route. Most people are less careful when analyzing texts than emails. Look for these signs that a text message is bad news and how to report it.
Misinformation and misleading messages are also slamming on social media. Here are my tips for spotting fake Russian accounts and messages.
As sanctions increase and Russia’s tactics intensify, it’s easy to think you won’t be affected outside of high gas prices. This idea is exactly what will get you into trouble – it’s time to wake up.
Cyber attacks: what you need to know
In 2020, Russian hackers invaded several federal government agencies, including the nuclear weapons agency. These are small potatoes of what could happen. A Russian attack on our fiber optic cables or satellites would bring down a ton of critical sectors, like internet traffic, banks, GPS, water treatment facilities, power plants, and the power grid.
Many cybersecurity experts predict large-scale denial of service attacks. This attack overwhelms a website with billions of pings. The website is so busy responding to every ping that it can’t respond to anything else. If this happens, government and private industry could take days or even months to fix the problem.
Wait, there’s more. Russia could launch phishing and other attacks to plant dangerous malware and ransomware on corporate and personal computers and networks.
What if the Internet goes down? have a plan
Our minds jump to the worst-case scenario in times of distress. Say your internet goes down. Before blaming a large-scale attack, make sure the problem isn’t closer to home.
Tap or click here for the best apps you can use to troubleshoot bad Wi-Fi for Android and iPhone. You can also check out the Down Detector crash monitoring site if only specific sites are not loading.
If your Internet connection is down and you have cell service, you can use your phone as a hotspot. You need to configure it in advance, so that you are comfortable using it.
Here’s how to turn your iPhone or Android into a mobile hotspot.
What if there is no wireless service? Have a plan for that too
When Michael Jackson died 13 years ago, so many people were calling each other that the country’s mobile phone system became overwhelmed and unusable. Hurricane Sandy flooded lower New York City in 2012. Again, cell phones were the first service to disappear.
If America is hit by cyberattacks, expect to lose reliable service. Now is the time to work on your personal plan of what you and your family will do without working smartphones.
Designate someone in your family (perhaps that person is you) to check in regularly. It may be once a day; maybe it’s once a week.
If there’s no cellular connection, but your internet is working, use your texting app, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or another messaging option to stay in touch. Train with your family and friends on the platform chosen in advance. The last thing you want to find is a series of panicked WhatsApp messages hours later when you tried to communicate via Facebook Messenger.
Be aware that texting often works even when cell lines are blocked.
Protect your texts: Anyone can intercept your text messages – unless you take this step.
‘The more doom I see, the more I want to see it’:Why we can’t stop doomscrolling Ukraine
Find alternative charging methods
Full disclosure: I have a backup generator in my house. At first I thought it was a total waste of money. Now that the generator has automatically turned on a few times when the power goes out, I’m glad I made the investment. Tap or click here for five solid options.
Generators are not the only solution. We recently reviewed a solar option on Komando.com that can power up to 85% of devices. It’s expensive but powerful for longer term needs.
Alternatively, power banks are an affordable way to charge your devices. Most power banks will hold a charge for a few months. A power bank from Anker has enough juice to charge two phones, and it’s around $20. Another option is powerful enough to charge a laptop once or an iPhone 11 four times.
Solar powered chargers work in the blink of an eye. For around $50, this one from BLAVOR takes around 13 hours to charge and then can power an iPhone up to 4.5 times.
Stock up on your medications
A ransomware attack could compromise the drug supply. Email your doctor and ask for a 90-day prescription to be filled. Ask them to email it to you to print it out and bring a hard copy to the pharmacy.
Better yet, create an online account with your pharmacy. This way you can monitor any activity and make special requests. Getting 90-day prescriptions will not only protect you in the event of a supply problem, but you can also save money.
Tap or click here for help creating an account with your pharmacy.
Home security: lock down your home network
Adjusting router settings can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before. Start by logging into your router’s admin console. Each router has a different way of doing this; consult your manual for specific instructions.
You don’t have a manual? Visit the manufacturer’s site or tap or click to visit a site that compiles thousands of user manuals.
You want to look at the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol Client List or Attached Devices section. This shows what gadgets are connected to your router, usually listed by IP address, MAC address, and/or name.
Determine which ones belong to you. You should recognize the name of your primary computer, and your tablet or smartphone should have the manufacturer or model name. If you are unable to understand the list or identify certain devices, turn off each gadget one by one.
Tap or click here for more detailed steps and instructions to lock your router to strangers.
Activate the antivirus if you are not already using it
Most of today’s malware is sneaky enough to lurk on your system without leaving many clues.
There are signs of infection.
‘Time bomb’:Russian ransomware attacks are coming. What small businesses should be doing right now.
Is your computer or phone using more data than usual? Are your devices getting hot to the touch for no reason? Maybe you see emails or text messages in your outbox that you don’t remember sending. Tap or click for more clues that your devices have been hacked.
A solid antivirus program can pick up the signs you can’t. I advise you to regularly scan your system for malware, spyware and other threats. My choice is TotalAV, a sponsor of my national radio show.
Also activate your VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a layer of protection between your devices and the internet. It hides your IP address and location. It also encrypts your data after you leave your device and travel to the website you are visiting.
You want a VPN that doesn’t harvest or sell your information and that works across multiple devices. Above all, it must be quick and easy to use. I use ExpressVPN, a sponsor of my national radio show, because that’s all.
Additional steps for small business owners
Businesses are a bigger target than individuals. After all, that’s where the money is. If you run a business, you need to get your data in order. Ransomware threats are meaningless when you have a solid backup of all your essential information. Tap or click to access my pro tips for avoiding ransomware and what to do if your business is under attack.
This is also a great time to remind your employees not to open emails from unrecognized senders or download attachments they didn’t request. Phishing scams are too widespread and devastating to ignore. Tap or click here to learn how a phishing attack allows hackers to read and send emails from your account.
Finally, take a deep breath. Now is not the time to panic or overreact, but keep in mind that the risks of cyberattacks on America have never been higher than they are right now.
Please share this story with your friends and family to ensure they are prepared as well.
Bonus Tip: An incredible story about hackers who attacked a hospital for ransomware
Ransomware hackers recently hit a hospital, and everything from heart machines to IV pumps stopped working. Doctors and nurses had to use pen and paper. There were no electronic patient records. But what happened when the hackers discovered it was a hospital will no doubt surprise you.
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Discover all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For his daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit his website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.