(The Center Square) – Technology has a dark side that is costing America an estimated $10 billion a year or more, according to the FBI. The agency’s Springfield Field Office describes the problem as a constant barrage of cyberattacks, many of which can be averted.
During Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October, the FBI is offering tips on how to protect yourself from cybercrimes. Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Van Hoff with the Cyber Crime Unit told The Center Square the purpose is not to pinpoint new attacks but to start a dialogue with the community about the ongoing threat.
“We try to do a lot of community outreach to inform individuals and businesses and organizations of what cyber threats look like and what to be aware of,” he said. “It’s just a way for us to get the word out there.”
When it comes to cybercrime, he said Illinois is one of the top states on the radar, according to 2022 figures.
“We ranked about fifth in crime victims at just a little under 15,000 individuals,” Van Hoff said, adding the state ranked seventh in losses from cybercrime estimated at $266 million in that same year. The problem is so intense it’s been called a barrage of cyberattacks by the Springfield office.
Cyberattacks are prevalent among those older than 60, although technology users of all ages can fall victim.
“They usually target those who have the potential of having the most wealth,” Van Hoff said.
As technology becomes more and more a part of daily life, from doorbells to nanny cams, laptops to smartphones, the opportunities expand for thieves to try to use these devices in a cyberattack. But there are steps that consumers can take to protect themselves.
On a computer or smartphone, the first line of defense is antivirus software.
“You have to make sure that the antivirus is updating itself all the time,” Van Hoff said.
Other tips are to change passwords regularly, resist opening unexpected emails or links and utilize multi-factor authentication.
Once the victim of such a crime, cyberattacks can be reported to the FBI Springfield at 217-522- 9675, through its Internet Crime Complaint Center.