Neal Cook, Front Rush
It’s a dreary feeling; knowing you’ve fallen for an online SPAM attack.
Were you one of the million or so Gmail users who were hacked last week? If you were, don’t be embarrassed. This was a sophisticated attack that fooled a lot of people.
The hack started with an email, sent from a known contact, that invited you to click a link to view a Google Doc they shared with you. Google does send an email when someone shares a Google Doc, so it would appear legitimate.
After you had clicked on the link inside, you were sent to a Google Apps page. It asked you to authorize an app called “Google Docs” to read, send and delete emails (which is common with some legitimate Google Docs). The problem here was that this Google Docs was not a real app, the hacker controlled it.
When this all began at the Front Rush office, I’m not going to lie; I was really concerned. We received about 100 emails from real coaches, and not knowing the severity of the attack, we jumped into an ad hoc meeting to try to find the root of the issue and to see if we were the only ones getting hacked (never a fun feeling).
After some digging and googling, we discovered this was a worldwide issue that was affecting individuals and companies. Needless to say, we breathed a sigh of relief.
If you were one of the million-plus users who did click on the Google Docs email during the one-hour before Google shut it down, make sure you go through the Google Security Check here and make sure the apps under “check your account permissions” are indeed the apps you want to share your information with.
So how do you make sure you don’t fall for the next hack?
It’s easy. Don’t trust anything. Don’t click on anything that you are not supposed to click on. For this latest SPAM attack, the email was sent from a trusted contact and it looked legit. But, ask yourself “Am I expecting a document from this person?”.
If you’re not, contact them and ask them if what they sent was real. By reaching out, you’ll allow them to quickly check if they’ve been hacked or not and take preventive measures.
You should also make sure you have an antivirus downloaded and running on your computer.
The last time I visited my aunt in Miami I had to use her computer to look up directions to the zoo. When I clicked on her web browser, I noticed the buttons looked a little different, and there were banner ads in the toolbar that should never be there. Popup ads were appearing left and right.
I yelled to my Aunt Cathy, “DROP THE MEATBALLS AND GET OVER HERE…PLEASE TELL ME YOU DON’T CLICK ON RANDOM THINGS ON YOUR COMPUTER”. She dropped the meatballs, and she did indeed just click things (remember, don’t trust the internet).
Older adults are more susceptible to hacks. It’s nothing against them, they are just more trustworthy of the internet and the scams, and don’t have as much familiarity with what is real and what is fake.
Young or old. Mac or PC. It doesn’t matter. Make sure you have an antivirus running on your computer at all times. I’m a huge fan of Avast. It’s free, and it works wonders (just ask my Aunt). You can download it for free right here.
You can also check with your IT department and ask them to double check your computer to ensure you have an active antivirus running on your computer.