March News from Information Security

If you’re like me, February went by quickly. Welcome to March! We’re advancing through the semester at a rapid pace and graduation will be here before we all know it. Before that happens, there are a couple of other milestones we will achieve. One of those is Spring Break, happening next week, and the other one I’d like to discuss is April 18th, or Tax Day (at least for 2023). One or both of these dates affect almost anyone reading this newsletter, so allow me a few minutes to mention some things to keep in mind.

Spring Break is a time for students to get away from classes, even if it is only means going home. For those not going home, but taking time to travel to exotic or not-so-exotic places, realize that scammers love to attempt to take advantage of bargain hunters, cheapskates, and those looking to save a few dollars. Those too-good-to-be-true vacation rentals, “free” vacation offers, cheap hotel rooms, third-party booking site deals, and timeshare scams all clamor for the attention of Spring Breakers eager to make as much of the week as possible.

Be sure to book lodging and entertainment opportunities with reputable companies and sites. If you receive a text or email from what appears to be a reputable site, but the offer is just too good, don’t click on the link. Go to the site directly and verify the authenticity of the offer. Be very suspicious of any offer that asks for a deposit up front in the form of gift cards or other hard to trace payment methods, including Venmo and Zelle. Spring Break is no time for a trip to be ruined because you weren’t savvy when you planned it, and losing money in the process just adds insult to injury.

The tax man cometh! It is that time of year when most people have to gather their documents, fill out those forms, probably online, and hope they come out on the better end of the whole equation. There are some of you, I’m sure, that pay someone to do this for you, but that doesn’t prevent you from being attacked with phishing emails and other forms of social engineering, just like those who fill those forms out themselves.

As mentioned before, always use reputable sites for your services, particularly for things like taxes. There are a number of trusted sites to help complete your taxes. H&R Block, TurboTax, Jackson Hewitt, and others are all available for reasonable fees to get your taxes filed. Forbes has a great article reviewing these and other potential sites. They also mention a possibility that many taxpayers (over 70%) qualify for, but very few use, the IRS Free File program, available from several different third-party sites. They have a list in the article, so go ahead and check it out if the fees from other services seem daunting.

Of course, be very careful with any emails, texts, or other forms of communication about taxes. If you have never used TurboTax, or some other tax filing service and you suddenly receive an email from them with a super deal for filing taxes, be suspicious. If you are interested, go to the site directly, NOT by clicking on the a link or calling a phone number listed in the email, but by searching for the correct web address or phone number via Google or your favorite search engine (mine is DuckDuckGo).

All Berry students, faculty and staff have MFA enabled on their Berry account, and you should use it in the most secure way via the Microsoft Authenticator app on your smart phone. But don’t stop there! Use the Microsoft Authenticator as your second factor on any site that supports Google Authenticator. Turn MFA/2FA on everywhere you can. Yes, it will take you another few seconds to log in, but your data and account will be safer.

If I’m not covering a topic of cybersecurity you are interested in or concerned about, please let me know. I want to be your first and best resource on cybersecurity information, so let me know how I can help and inform you.

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That’s it. Short and sweet this month, right down to business, as I know you are all deep in the throes of the semester. Take another six minutes and ingest some Food for Thought. March is almost always a windy month. Take a look into the world of the tumbleweed, a plant that survives and thrives via the wind…and is unstoppable! Who knew?

Food for Thought

Featured Image: Photo by Dustin Humes on Unsplash

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