Like millions of Americans, Oceanside resident Rob Wetzel is working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, spending more time on his computer and phone.
He doesn't know when or how it happened, but his online passwords were stolen.
“I got an email and the subject of the email was my password to this special program that I use and I was absolutely flabbergasted. I had no idea how anybody could do that. It scared the heck out of me. I had personal information too; social security numbers, bank account numbers. So I was just sweating it,” Wetzel said.
Fortunately, Wetzel only needed to change one password because he uses a password manager program that stores all of his login information.
That’s something John Caruthers, a retired San Diego FBI agent and Illumina's Director of Cyber Security highly recommends, especially now.
“What the password manager does is they store all of your passwords and encrypt them so that no one can break or crack your password,” Caruthers explained. “Only the manager has it but even for them it's encrypted.”
Computer security firms are also warning of an influx of fake websites using coronavirus-related domains.
Cyber security consultant Gary Weessies said they mimic the websites of legitimate organizations, including the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Many people know not to click on things, but now with emphasis on coronavirus more people want information about it,” Weessies said. “One of the things that happened in early March, just as the pandemic really took steam, was that a lot of the cyber security companies noticed that a lot of people were registering all sorts of names with ‘corona’ in it, or ‘survive corona’ or ‘coronavirus maps.”
Weessies said criminals then access your private information or download a virus onto your computer.
“Right now most of the bad programs that could be downloaded are mostly looking for browser passwords for your financial information so they can steal directly from a bank account or a shopping site such as Amazon,” he said.
There's also a warning about "contact tracing" scams designed around state contact-tracing initiatives.
You could be asked to click on a link that takes you to a fake web page. Experts say real health department contact tracers will never ask you for your Social Security number, credit card details, or other financial information.
Weessies’ suggestion for protecting yourself from cyber hackers: update your software using two-factor authentication, don’t click on suspicious links, and enable security for programs like video conferencing so your access isn't shared.