The gift no journalist wants to receive is malware. With so much of our lives and work being conducted in cyberspace, criminals have more opportunities to trick you into clicking their malicious links.
Even if an email message appears to come from someone you trust, don't underestimate fraudsters because they can easily spoof someone's identity—especially when they know where you work and the stories you cover.
Three ways to avoid regretting your clicks:
1. Read, really read, emails before you click, tap, reply, post.
2. An email might say it will take you to a trusted site, when it actually contains a hidden malicious link. Be sure to hover your cursor over the link. This is how you can see the real URL before you click.
3. Always check the spelling of a web address. Sometimes cyber criminals wil make smal typos that are eazy to overlook. And sometimes words are combined with numbers to make an address look complicated so people think it’s real. But you are a journalist and you know things are not always as they appear at first glance.
If you suspect you made a bad click, immediately call your IT team. It’s always better to fix an infection earlier than later.
Also be on the lookout for scams. If things look or sound strange they probably are. You’re dealing with cyberspace here -- things aren’t always as they appear. I know some of us might engage in a little e-commerce during a coffee break, maybe check our personal email, and post non-news tidbits on social media at the end of the day.
So here are a couple sneaky tactics you’ll want to avoid so you don’t have to tell your IT team how you infected your company computer.
That “Free Trial Offer” buried in the fine print is often steep financial terms you’d never agree to if an advertisement showed the “$99.99 Trial Offer” truth. Or that tweet from a follower who you don’t really know, raving about a contest giving away a very expensive item. You click on it and guess what? Your device becomes a zombie. What happens is the link downloads software adding your computer to a botnet that cyber criminals use to conduct their spam campaigns. And this won’t impress your IT team as they use precious minutes of their day cleaning your device. But that said -- do tell your IT team right away if you suspect something is wrong regardless of how it got that way.
Cyber criminals know to pull your heartstrings. “Please give what you can today…” but if you notice they want you to send a Western Union wire transfer or show PayPal as your only option–Stop! I suggest donating to charities using their own websites instead of clicking on email solicitations. Do your homework because scammers build fake websites for this very reason. Just like you verify facts on the ground, as journalists we need to verify the websites we use in cyberspace.