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Survey: Many in WA Still Clueless About Basic Online Security

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PHOTO: Investigators at the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit track cyber scams, as a new AARP survey shows many Washingtonians still aren't doing enough to protect themselves from being hacked. Photo courtesy of AARP Washington.
PHOTO: Investigators at the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit track cyber scams, as a new AARP survey shows many Washingtonians still aren't doing enough to protect themselves from being hacked. Photo courtesy of AARP Washington.
 By Chris ThomasContact
May 12, 2015

SEATTLE - Cyber-criminals are one step ahead of many Washingtonians, if the results of a new AARP survey are any indication. Almost half of those surveyed didn't pass an eight-question test about how to keep their personal information secure online.

About one in four said they've recently done their banking or purchased a product online on a free, public WiFi connection at a cafe or hotel.

Eighty-two percent said they aren't sure what type of encryption or security their home connection has. For that, AARP Washington State Director Doug Shadel says a call to their Internet service provider would be a good idea.

"A lot of the people who have substandard encryption have old routers," he says. "The router that hasn't been updated works perfectly fine, so why would you update it? But if your router is more than five or six years old, you really should look into what kind of encryption it has."

When setting up a new router, Shadel says to make sure the device's encryption is turned on.

The survey results were released Tuesday as part of a new "Cyber Safety" campaign, in conjunction with the state attorney general's office, the Federal Trade Commission and Microsoft.

Complaints from victims of cyber crimes are among the 20,000 that end up in the hands of state investigators in the office of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. He says all too often, problems could have been avoided by simply asking before logging on to the WiFi connection in a public business.

"They can be bogus and will have a name for a connection that's deliberately similar to the coffee shop or the hotel, or the venue that's offering you free WiFi," says Ferguson. "So, always speak to the barista or the hotel clerk to make sure you've got the right connection."

Ferguson notes that hackers often are international, which makes prosecuting them, and getting money back for scam victims, particularly difficult. He adds people should get into the habit of changing their passwords every three months, and using a different password for every account.

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