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Local Expert: Cybercriminal Activity On The Rise During Pandemic

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A Northwoods cybersecurity expert says the number of dangerous phishing emails has been on the rise in the last few months.

Bill Niemuth, who lives in Boulder Junction and owns Loss Mitigation Solutions, says cybercriminals love chaos, like the chaos brought on by the virus pandemic.

The uncertainty brought on by the virus has made people more vulnerable to these attacks.

“Really, it has to do with not having structure, not having organization,” Niemuth says. “That leads to people, all of us, acting on emotion more than rational thinking. If we don’t have structure, if there’s not a process in place, we’re less apt to look closely at it.”

Phishing emails try to get people to click fraudulent links and give criminals personal information. Niemuth says he’s seen an uptick since the beginning of the pandemic.

People need to be prepared.

“I like to go back to President Reagan’s line: trust but verify. I’ve changed that a little bit. I really think about it as, verify, verify, and verify,” he said. “Listeners can simply slow down and verify what they’re reading, verify what they’re clicking, verify the websites that they’re going to. Be especially cautious with email.”

Niemuth also recommends making difficult-to-guess passwords and changing them often.

He says cybercriminals are unlikely to slow down, even after the pandemic passes.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.