Pennsylvanians reminded about the importance of protecting their information online during the pandemic

Regional News

In this Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, photo a woman types on a keyboard in New York. Cybersecurity researchers say a coordinated cyberespionage campaign has targeted U.N. relief agencies, the International Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations groups for the past 10 months. The California cybersecurity outfit Lookout says the campaign, which uses phishing to harvest passwords from mobile phones and computers, is still active. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — With an ongoing surge of cyber-attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wolf Administration is reminding Pennsylvanians about the need to protect their information online.

Online criminals will try to exploit any situation to steal personal information and defraud consumers, and this pandemic is no different. As the pandemic continues, the need to be vigilant in our online activities is greater than ever.

Secretary of Administration Michael Newsome

The FBI recently reported that the number of complaints about cyber-attacks had reached 4,000 per day, a 400 percent increase compared to before the pandemic. The international police agency INTERPOL also reports an alarming rate of cyberattacks globally. In addition to consumers, businesses and government agencies are also being targeted.

Phishing is by far the most common tactic used by cybercriminals. The easiest way for bad actors to commit their crimes is by tricking people into handing over their information or opening links to malicious software.

Erik Avakian, Chief Information Security Officer for the commonwealth

Phishing is when someone represents themselves as a trusted source so that a victim will provide personal information, open attachments, or click on links. Phishing frequently occurs through email, it can also occur through phone calls, websites, social media, text messages, and other forms of communication.

The Protecting Yourself Online guide, available on, provides information to help prevent identity theft and other cybercrimes, as well as resources and advice on what to do if you become a victim. You can help to secure your personal information by:

  • Installing firewalls, anti-virus, and anti-spyware programs and keeping them up to date. Many software programs and operating systems can be set to update automatically when new versions are available.
  • Using strong passwords that include upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. Do not reuse passwords or use the same password for multiple accounts. There are password management programs available that can help you keep track of all your account credentials.
  • Thinking before you click. Do not open an email or related attachments from untrusted sources. When in doubt, delete.
  • Avoiding public Wi-Fi hot spots, such as those offered by retailers and at other locations, whenever possible. Do not transmit or receive personal information while using public Wi-Fi. 
  • Educating yourself about popular online scams, such as ransomware and phishing, and how to recognize them.

The Office of Administration (OA) oversees cybersecurity for state agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction. Over the years, Pennsylvania has emerged as a leader among states in cybersecurity through innovation and best practices.

Protecting data is at the heart of everything we do as an IT organization and a responsibility we take on with the utmost commitment. In an ever-more interconnected world, collaboration on cybersecurity is also critical, which is why we work closely with our partners in the federal government, counties, other states, and the private sector to share information on emerging threats.

John MacMillan, Deputy Secretary for Information Technology

As part of the Governor’s Customer Service Transformation initiative, OA is implementing Keystone Login, which will allow users to log into online services from multiple state agencies with the same account credential, improving both security and customer service.

OA also provides shared cybersecurity services to counties, cities, and school districts, including security awareness training and anti-phishing exercises for employees. The office also works closely with counties and the Department of State on election cybersecurity.

Governor Wolf has proclaimed October as ‘Cybersecurity Awareness Month’ to encourage all Pennsylvanians to take proactive steps to protect themselves online.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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