2018 Preview

Making Smart Moves Online – Website Safety

Eugene Beran, IT Director, AADE

Eugene Beran, IT Director, AADE

Although stories of how your personal information can be compromised through social media sites and online shopping sites dominate media coverage, the old tried and true method of tricking you online still exists and can be very profitable for scam artists and criminals.

Criminals spoof popular websites to try to get your information or money! Typically, this is done by buying website domain names that are like the valid websites. For example, these criminals buy a domain named targett.com (instead of target.com) to capture those who may mistype the website address. Sometimes these links will load a web page that will try to infect your computer. Other times, the websites will try to get your personal information and credit card numbers, or they pretend to provide a service that never actually happens, leaving you to deal with any fallout.

Unfortunately, many industry conferences are targeted by people who set up fake websites for conference registrations and hotel bookings.  Then, they have these copycat websites listed on search engines by buying ads, or they send out spam emails with the link to the bogus website. Unsuspecting attendees fly to the destination city only to find out they don’t have their hotel reservation after all, or they paid more than their friends who booked through the actual conference website. But with a little awareness on your part, you can prevent this from happening to you.

First, always make sure your computer has the latest updates.  Microsoft, Google and Apple are always releasing updates that attempt to make your computer more secure. Second, always run an antivirus program and make sure it’s up-to-date.  And I might add, always run an anti-malware software.  Both applications will try to block malicious websites from loading on your computer, helping to protect you.

Now that you’re ready to access the internet, you still need to be on your toes when you load a website into your browser. Look around the website with a skeptical eye.  AADE has seen copycat websites that posted the wrong dates for our annual conference! If the website doesn’t have correct information about the conference, be suspicious.  Do the links on the site work, showing you what you would expect to see?  For example, if the “About Us” link doesn’t talk about the company itself, that’s a red flag.  If the sessions link takes you to a request information form, this may also be a red flag.

Speaking of forms, if the website form isn’t protected by HTTPS at the beginning of the URL, then the data is being sent unencrypted. Most reputable companies who want to protect their customers would not have their website set up in this manner. Another red flag.

My advice is to always go to the industry site to find the link to their annual conference.  Then, look around the site and make sure you are comfortable before entering your name and credit card number.  If you have any doubts, call the company.  They’ll be happy to assist! In fact, try out these tips as you register for AADE18 in Baltimore and book your hotel stay this August.

These tips are important for all of your online browsing! Follow the same steps with your online shopping and banking sites.  Pay attention to the URL, look for the proper spelling of the company and check for the HTTPS before entering in any information.  Also, pay attention to any browser or anti-virus warnings that may appear. It’s worth the effort!

See you in Baltimore!

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