Last week our story ended with me giving you a heads up that this week we would be talking about something I knew very little about — cybersecurity. I just feel it so important for me to share with you the things that we can’t see, that are out there on a cloud somewhere, but yet things that connect us to others good and bad around the world.

Before we jump forward to our new security concerns, I have something to ask of everyone.

Please remember that Memorial Day is right around the corner on Monday, May 28. I know many of us look forward to having a long weekend, maybe having a barbeque to get together with friends and family, but we can’t ever forget what Memorial Day is really all about.

It is the one day a year that we set aside to remember and honor those men and woman who died in service to our country. They gave their lives and left their families, to secure our safety. How can we possibly thank them? Honestly we really can’t, but what we can do is help to ensure that they are never forgotten.

We can give up an hour or so of our time to get out and attend a Memorial Day Parade, to wave a flag, stand with pride as other veterans, our local American Legion and VFW post members walk past us this Monday.

This year Derry will hold their Memorial Day parade at 11 a.m. and Londonderry’s begins at 10 a.m. Rustle your family out of bed and bring them to the Memorial Day parade. Explain to your children of all ages, what Memorial Day is and why the least we can do is be present.

If I had ever told my mom and dad that in the year 2018 we would not only have to be worried about our homeland security but now we are faced with what is called cybersecurity, I don’t think they would believe it. I find it hard to believe myself, but boy it is real!

Remember I told you about the Primex Conference I attended? I was given the choice of classes I wanted to take. I stepped outside my comfort zone and took classes that I knew little about and had little interest in. 

You know I wanted to take the warm fuzzy classes about knowing people, helping others well that’s not cybersecurity at all. 

Remember the term malware, which means software that’s purpose is to damage our computers cause them to stop working, lose programs — well that’s nothing compared to what it has grown into. I bet many of you are like I was and you have no idea. Well malware has now led us to what is called crimeware and it’s really scary!

Crimeware is malware that are computer programs created for illegal activities such as stealing and extorting money from companies and individuals. This is all part of what is now known as the “Dark" or "Black" internet. Our presenters, some of whom work for the IRS and other government agencies, explained that just about anything illegal can be found here.

Then we also have a few other things to worry about too, including scams over email, voice and text, or phishing, vishing and smishing.

The other really scary thing is that new scams are popping up all the time. Companies are even being held hostage with ransomware. Suddenly they will get a message that if they do not pay a huge ransom, all of their files and data will be gone.  

You might ask, as I did, why they just don’t go to the authorities or why pay? In most cases these threats are coming from far off countries and there is little that we can do to stop them. You never see them; it’s all done through hackers and the internet. Billions have been lost, companies have been destroyed.

I bet your feeling like I did now: Is anything safe? The good news is there are some simple things we can do to outsmart the crimeware and the hackers too.

Be careful when answering your phone. Don’t give out information and don’t believe them if they say they are from the IRS. The IRS will not call you.

Don’t just open every email you receive whether it is personal or on the job. If something seems off in the email address or subject line DO NOT OPEN IT! One quick click can cause all kinds of damage.

Notice email addresses that are just a tad bit off or out of order. Typosquatting is adding an extra letter to a word, something is just not right. Obvious grammar errors are a red flag. This is how scammers impersonate your contacts, pretending to be friends or family.

Know that your personal information is only as safe as the sites you go on. Only visit trusted sites. Don’t kid yourself, everything we do on the internet is saved somewhere, no matter how much you delete.

Facebook has many great uses, but did you know that most of what we are exposed to there is considered scam or garbage. Be careful. Think before you click or accept a friend request.

My mom was big on shredding her bills and paperwork. Honestly, I thought it was silly, we didn’t have much for anyone to take is how I looked at it right or wrong. Well it turns out Pearl was right again — dumpster diving has made a big comeback.

Not for stuff, but for papers with your account numbers and such on it. Shredding or at least tearing off account numbers is wise before tossing things out.

Card skimming at gas stations and ATM’s has become a new sport too. Make sure the machine your about to use looks legit.

We love our Alexa in the kitchen, but once you voice activate them they can be recording your home life too. Baby monitors have been hacked, along with home cameras.

Think about the passwords you create. I have been lazy with these but not anymore. Everyone knows we pick birthdays, anniversaries, and family names, so be creative and use different passwords for different things. The more difficult it is for you to remember the more difficult it will be for a hacker to figure out. Use capitals, letters, numbers, and signs. The longer the better.

So what else can we do? Be aware, share this information with friends and family and stay up-to-date. Always call our police departments if you have any concerns.

Now one last interesting coming around full circle point. Wednesday, our wonderful assistant clerk Beth Morrison and I attended our state regional town clerk workshop. Our Secretary of State Bill Gardner spoke to us about elections. I have been a big supporter of updating our polling areas with new cloud based scanning devices for checking in our voters, and casting ballots too. We have to get with the times here in New Hampshire, I thought, and I consider myself well educated in all of this.

Gardner offered us another way to look at it. He explained to us that the reason he hasn’t jumped on board with all of the latest and greatest new election tools out there is simple — what can be safer than paper and pencil? We get a paper ballot and we physically mark it with a pen. No room for crimeware here.  

Sherry Farrell is Londonderry Town Clerk and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire.

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