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10 tips to keep cyber crooks from haunting your day

The ghosts, goblins and ghouls will be prowling this month, looking for a little light-hearted mischief. Unfortunately, so will the cyber criminals, whose mischief is far more frightful.   

Online or cyber criminals take tricks to the extreme this and every month. Don’t let a scammer pull you into their web. Stay alert, aware and ahead of the crooks. 

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, the perfect time to learn how to stay safe online. Remember, cyber criminals are constantly changing, looking for new avenues to access information and scam unsuspecting people. But there are simple steps you can incorporate right now to help you stay safe online. 

  1. Create a long passphrase. Instead of a single password, choose a string of random words or an obscure line from a book that's easy to remember. Throw in a special character or two and a number or capital letters to add additional strength. It’s important to know that short, simple passwords can literally be cracked in seconds by creepy cyber criminals. On the other hand, long and complex passphrases would take years to break.
  2. Get a password manager. A manager will help create secure passwords for you. They also help you safely store your passwords in one place. It’s almost like magic. 
  3. Go for the multifactor authentication (MFA). You need more than just a password to keep your online accounts safe from mysterious mischief makers. MFA makes you much less likely to be hacked. Enable MFA on all online accounts that offer it, especially email, social media and your financial accounts.  
  4. Always be extra cautious with unsolicited emails, texts or calls, especially if they ask for personal information. Did you know that phishing emails, texts and calls are the number one way data gets compromised, according to the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency. Take your time and read texts and emails thoroughly. Never click on links in an unsolicited email or text. If you’re not sure about an email, contact the person/business through a verified number. Never use the phone number provided in the suspicious email/text. If you receive a phishing email at your work, immediately report it to your company’s IT department. At home, delete the email or text and don’t respond. 
  5. Update your software. You want to make sure you have the latest security patches and updates on your devices, which means it’s important to update software regularly. Keep operating systems, antivirus software, web browsers and applications up to date. 
  6. Never plug in an unknown USB drive that you find or receive in the mail. It’s highly likely to be part of a scam.
  7. Secure your Wi-Fi network and digital devices. Your home’s wireless router is the primary entrance for cybercriminals to access all of your connected devices. Secure your Wi-Fi network and your digital devices by changing the factory-set default password and username.  
  8. Don’t overshare. Social media has changed the way people connect and communicate. We tend to share and sometimes overshare on our social media sites. It’s important to keep in mind that scammers take advantage of this societal norm. Stop and think before you post. Never share personally identifiable information on social media platforms. And as much as you love to share your vacation photos, keep in mind that by doing so, you’re letting everyone know that your house is empty, and you are out of town. 
  9. Use your online portal to pay your Black Hills Energy bill. By accessing the portal, you have direct access to Black Hills Energy and a secure payment option. An added bonus, you can manage your other services — such as Service Guard — and track your energy usage.
  10. Remember never give out account information, social security numbers, credit card numbers or banking information to anyone during an unsolicited phone call. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be Black Hills Energy, and they are asking for that information, hang up and call our customer service center at 888-890-5554. We would never call and ask you for such personally identifiable information. 


Staying safe from cyber scammers is something we can all work toward by implementing these simple practices. But unfortunately, cyber crooks are constantly looking for new ways to scare up your information. Don’t let them in. Keep them out by staying up to date on the latest in cyber security this and every month. Together, we can do our best to ensure ghastly cyber criminals never have a good day. 




Don’t let your smart thermostat give you away

That’s right, even a thermostat can be a security risk. Smart thermostats don’t store sensitive information, but they do know things about you. They know when you are home, when you sleep and your preferred temps. Cyber criminals have used smart thermostats to hack into the systems of businesses and move laterally into other databases. The best way to protect yourself is to use complex and long passwords for the router that devices connect to. This will allow your smart thermostat to do what it does best – keep your family comfortable and your energy bills down.

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