The Internal Revenue Service, states and the tax industry remind you that online threats and annoyances abound. There are viruses, worms, Trojans, bots, spyware and adware – all fall under the malicious programs (malware) umbrella. How do you protect your computer from hackers and identity thieves? You need security software and to keep it turned on. You also need security on all of your digital devices, including laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax professional industry are asking for your help in their effort to combat identity theft and fraudulent returns. Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference. That’s why we launched a public awareness campaign that we call Taxes. Security. Together. We’ve also launched a series of security awareness tips that can help protect you from cybercriminals. Tens of thousands of new malware programs launch each day, making the use of security software essential to safe internet use. These malware programs can disable your computer, install viruses that give cybercriminals control, steal your data, track your keystrokes to give criminals your passwords and many other malicious acts.
Here are a few basic steps to help protect your computer:
1. Use pre-installed security software. Many computers come pre-installed with firewall and anti-virus protections. A good broad-based anti-malware program should be able to protect you from viruses, Trojans, spyware and adware.
2. Turn on automatic updates. Set your security software to update automatically so it can be upgraded as threats emerge. Also, make sure your security software is on at all times.
3. Investigate your security software options. Search out trusted sources to learn more about security software options. This will help you decide if you should invest in security software that gives you even stronger protections and options.
4. Consider encryption software. If you retain important financial documents, such as prior-year tax returns, on your computer, consider investing in encryption software to prevent unauthorized access by hackers or identity thieves.
5. Protect your children. If your children also use the same device, make sure it has parental control options to protect your children from malicious websites. Educate your children about the threats of opening suspicious web pages, emails or documents.
6. Set password protections for all devices. Whether it’s your computer, tablet or mobile phone, always set a password requirement for accessing the device. If it is lost or stolen, your device is still protected from access.
7. Protect your wireless network. Set password and encryption protections for your wireless network. If your home or business Wi-Fi is unsecured it also allows any computer within range to access your wireless and steal information from your computer.
8. Never download “security” software from a pop-up ad. A pervasive ploy is a pop-up ad that indicates it has detected a virus on your computer. It urges you to download a security software package. Don’t fall for it. It most likely will install some type of malware. Reputable security software companies do not advertise in this manner.
9. Avoid downloads from suspicious sources. Never open a PDF document or picture attached in an email from an unknown source. It may contain malware.
The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry joined as the Security Summit to enact a series of initiative to help protect you from tax-related identity theft in 2017. You can help by taking these basic steps.