Watch CBS News

'Your Data Is Worth Money': Cyber Security Expert Says COVID-19-Related Phishing Up 6,000%

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As you sit at home working remotely, e-learning or even playing your favorite online game, it may be hard to imagine why cyber criminals want to attack you.

But the answer is simple, and it's up to you to protect yourself, according to cyber security expert Ryan Cloutier.

"Your data is worth money," Cloutier said. "The average adult's data is worth $250 to $300 on the black market."

Hackers can get in through your phone, computer, smart devices, routers and even gaming systems.

"Basically, if it's on the internet and we're not doing the best job to secure it, that provides an opportunity for a bad guy to get in," Cloutier said.

An easy way to secure those devices is to make sure they're updated.

"Having devices that are not up to date is equal to leaving the windows and doors of your home open and then leaving," he said.

Everything from your devices to your mobile apps to software apps like browsers on your computer all need to be updated -- so do this regularly. Even your router needs to be updated. And if it's more than five years old, Cloutier recommends upgrading.

"All of these things are going to help you to be less likely to be a victim of cyber crime," he said.

Right now, scammers are posing as human resources professionals from your employer, the IRS, charitable organizations helping COVID-19 patients and people selling personal protective equipment.

"We've seen a huge increase, about a 6,000% increase in phishing in just the last few weeks, specifically around COVID," he said.

So it's critical to avoid click bait in your inbox. Never hand over information unless you know it's from a legitimate source.

"The easiest trick is to read the email out loud and pretend that there's a human actually standing in front of you asking you for this," Cloutier said. "A lot of times that will cause us to pause."

Some schemes can look legit, so to be extra cautious.

"Don't click links that are in the email. Type those addresses into your browser," he said.

With so many devices on one network, Cloutier recommends setting up a second Wi-Fi login, or a guest network. Put your sensitive devices on one network and less sensitive devices on the other to outsmart bad actors.

"So if for example your gaming system was compromised by a bad guy, having it on the guest network makes it very difficult for them to then gain access to your work school or personal finance computer," he said.

Also, don't forget to keep an eye on your little ones.

"We do want to trust our children, but sometimes our children don't realize that they're not at a legit site, or they don't realize that the person they're talking to isn't a peer, but really an adult maybe with malicious intent," Cloutier said.

He also recommends setting up a password if you use video conferencing for work. Applications like Zoom and Teams are big targets right now.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.