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“No one is 100 percent secure when it comes to cyber security. We just have to do our best keeping our private information confidential and secure when doing business,” said Nicholas McGowan at the Cyber Security Lunch and Learn at the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® this week. McGowan is a sergeant at the Petaluma Police Department, a member of the San Francisco Crimes Task Force and the Bay Area chapter of the High Technology Crime Investigators Association. He also has established Brainwave Hack Consulting Services.

Cyber security is a concern for anyone who connects to the internet. “A hacker just has to be right once,” said McGowan, and this is why you have to be diligent about keeping your private information secure. Cyber criminals seek to identify and retrieve passwords, dental and medical records, bank accounts, credit cards and government identification.

McGowan said your password is your first level of defense from hackers, so you need a most secure password for your email and other important accounts. McGowan suggests a password with no less than five and preferably 12 characters and resetting your password every few months.

Use anti-virus software and make sure it is updated. The best protection is to have a multifactor authentication.

In offices or even your home, McGowan said it is not safe to have a shared network because it is vulnerable to being hacked. Business emails can be compromised. Have your own personal or business network and a separate network for guests.

Stay away from open networks in airports, malls and coffee places. “They are a cyber criminal’s dream,” said McGowan.

Phishing with links in emails is rampant. Links can contain viruses which could be a source of ransomware. Ransomware is only bad if you run it, so do not click on a link, even if the email purportedly comes from a credit card company or bank. Go directly to the company’s website and access the information from there.

“If it doesn’t feel right, trust your gut. Never click on a link,” said McGowan.

 

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