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Since 2004, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has marked National Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October to spread the word on the importance of securing your computer against dangerous viruses and malware.

Blocking bad actors before they strike is crucial to safeguarding your private information, said Marble Falls Police Department Detective Thomas Broyles.

“Caution is key,” he said. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in these situations. You don’t want to get yourself wrapped up because you trust everything.”

The MFPD regularly receives calls about potential online scams and suspicious emails.

“We get calls with some frequency where people say, ‘I’ve got this, that, and the other, and I’m not so sure if it’s true or if it’s a scam,’” MFPD Chief Glenn Hanson said. “Typically, those are the kind of things we see.”

Deleting emails from unknown sources is the best way to avoid harmful viruses and scams.

“We tell folks that if it’s not from a source you know or trust — some sort of unsolicited type thing— then erase it,” Hanson said. “You don’t want to open an attachment or go to some kind of suspect website because that’s where they put these bots out there that can get onto your computer.”

Once on your computer or device, viruses can infect other users in your network.

“They can go through your contact list and send it to people you know, too,” he said.

Broyles recommends purchasing a strong antivirus software to block these malicious attacks.

“I always tell people that a good antivirus software might not be the cheapest solution, but it’s definitely the easiest way to (protect yourself),” he said. 

The department hosts classes to educate older residents on the best practices to staying safe online.

“I do an elderly scam presentation where I try to teach the elderly about any phishing expeditions that are more common, some of the more trending (artificial intelligence) technology like ChatGPT and the fake Amazon (e)mails,” Broyles said.

Below are some basic tips to strengthen your own cybersecurity:

  • Lock your device with a passcode, PIN, or facial recognition.
  • Cover your computer’s camera to prevent criminals from gaining remote access to spy on you
  • Use multi-factor authentication when possible to make it trickier for malicious online actors to access your data.
  • Use caution when receiving emails from someone you don’t know.
  • Create complex and unique passwords to make it harder for hackers to break into your online accounts.