Cyber Attacks on the Rise

Over the past few weeks, we here at CLARK have seen a significant rise in malware and virus attacks, with new and existing clients bringing us their computers to clean. Sadly, this is not a surprise to us. Every time there is a national or global event, hackers do their best to take advantage. Over the course of this pandemic, we’ve seen a significant number of phishing emails, fake websites, false text alerts, and phony phone calls related to infection numbers, stimulus checks, and malicious misinformation.

With our Presidential Election coming up on November 3rd, we can expect attacks to increase in number and complexity.

The vast majority of these attacks use deceptive language and imagery to trick you into clicking on false links and downloading malicious programs. A little awareness will go a long way in preventing you from falling victim to these attacks. With that in mind, here are some things to watch for as the election draws near.

Think Before You Click

We are all guilty of this. You see a headline that looks interesting, or is immediately infuriating, and what’s the first thing you do? Click on it! Whether it’s something you want to read, you’re looking for a place to blast comments, or you intend to share it, the first thing we always do is click on it.

Stop! Yes, you could click on it, but should you?

Clicking on it is exactly what the hackers want. Cybersecurity experts warn of digitally manipulated videos and doctored photos that are not only intended to influence opinion, but also contain malicious code. In addition to Ransomware, which is primarily connected to these videos, a lot of them have links that take you to fake government websites where you are encouraged to enter personal information for attempts at identity theft.

Always Go Straight to the Source

Cybersecurity experts expect rumors, hoaxes, and misinformation generated by hackers to increase 500% or more over what we saw in 2016. During the last Presidential Election, the majority of this was standalone content with the express intention of encouraging division among Americans based on race, religion, and ideology. This time around, the intention is to steal identities and disrupt processes.

Social media has already seen a significant uptick in fake petition requests that steal names and email addresses, as well as fake polls and surveys that contain links to malicious sites. Many of these will promise compensation or prizes for participating, with requests for bank information or credit card numbers to process bogus shipping charges. The more information that they ask for, the less likely it is to be real. Do not overshare and be aware that real political polls will not offer you anything for participating.

Beyond this are a series of voter registration scams. Some use online forms that promise to send you fake ballots, while fake political content will encourage you to follow a link to vote online. It doesn’t matter that online voting isn’t real, some people are still clicking on these links and entering all of their personal information for a chance to avoid long lines. This is a significant source of new identity fraud.

Doing your civic duty should not put your digital identity at risk, but that’s exactly what these hackers are doing.

Whether its an email, poll, survey, ad, or something else you see on the internet, do not click on links that promise to take you government or Presidential candidate sites. Open your web browser and manually type in the name. If what you saw is real, there will be more information on their legitimate website.

Be Skeptical on Social Media

It’s always great when you see something that exactly agrees with your beliefs. Except that hackers know this too, they configure their content to be attractive to some groups and infuriating to others and they put it in as many places as possible. While all social media platforms have increased their security to keep hackers from advertising, getting people to read and share it can work even better. Putting up flashy images with lots of pretty colors and appealing text is a great way to get people to share and when you see a friend share, you are more apt to do it yourself.

One of the newer things on social media this time around are Political Donation Scams. This has been a goto phone scam for decades, but those on social media are seeing unprecedented success. You’ve seen them, posts that claim that an opponent is leading in donations that ask you to help. These scams run the gambit from being totally fake organizations that steal your financial information to sending only a very small percentage of your donation to your candidate. It can be difficult to tell the real donation ads from the fake, so the best thing to do is go straight to the source, as we stated above.

Don’t click on the links.

Please be wary of everything you read out on social media, and be especially careful about what you share. The last thing you want to do is help to infect your friends and family.

Be Aware and Be Careful

The year 2020 has been a rough one for almost everyone, and hackers are out to make things as difficult as possible. They want to steal from us. They want to divide us. They want to keep us from going to the polls. When it comes down to it, though, we don’t have to give in to what they want. With a little awareness, and thinking before we act, all their efforts will be wasted.

Let’s look out for one another. Share this information and to help keep everyone safe.

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