Experts on cyber crime urge you to 'Stop. Think. Connect'

Experts on cyber crime urge you to 'Stop. Think. Connect' »Play Video

These days, we need to be safe every single time we go online. Get careless, and you could wind up with some malicious software in your computer.

Online security experts released a simple message on Monday, one they say will reduce the risk of getting burned: Stop. Think. Connect.

Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, says cyber crime is a fairly serious issue.

"We see a lot of cyber crime everywhere. It's not only individuals who are targeted through the classic attacks - phishing, you know, links and attachments that might have malicious software," he said. "We see cyber thieves now going after small businesses. That's a very heavy target for them. So it's a big problem. Millions and millions of Americans get affected by it every year."

One new risk area some may not think to protect is smart phones, Kaiser said.

"That's the thing Americans really need to think about - (protecting) not only their computer, but all the devices that are actually hooked up to the Internet that they use every single day," he said.

So what do the experts mean by their message to stop, think and connect?

"In a lot of theses cases, especially a lot of those classic phishing cases, for example, if you just take the moment to stop and think before you click on that link, for example, 'Is this something that looks legitimate? Is this from a place I normally do business? Is this too compelling? Is somebody telling me to do something that I know I shouldn't be doing?' People, if they stop and think about it before they make that connection, can actually protect themselves," he said.

But that's sometimes not enough. A user might visit a legitimate website that's infected or corrupted by cyber thieves. Kaiser says users can protect yourself against such attacks by running a mental check.

"That's back into the stop-think-connect mode," he said. "Are you ready to go online? Have you updated your software? Is it ready to go? Do you have the latest and the greatest? Have you put in all the defenses you need with your security software, your Web browser and operating system?"

Kaiser urges users to make sure their computers are "clean and ready to go."

"That's your best defense against those kinds of attacks," he said.

Many people may not realize that without updates, anti-virus software quickly go out of date.

"It has to update automatically. Whether it's a paid subscription or not paid, you have to have it set up to update automatically," he said. "The good news, although you should check this on your machine at home, is that most of them are just doing that now. So for most people who are connected through broadband and are online all the time, they can deliver those updates to you so that you're really as protected as you can be."

Some of the top Internet security experts in the country gathered in Seattle on Monday to kick off National Cyber Security Month, and in attendance was the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Why is the department covering cyber crimes?

"Actually, in the federal government, the Department of Homeland Security is the group ... tasked with doing basic education, awareness on cyber security for the whole country," Kaiser said, adding the department, along with the National Cyber Security Alliance and 28 companies, helped launch the "Stop. Think. Connect." campaign.

Kaiser said investigators are working to shut down cyber thieves around the world.

"Clearly, in this digital age now, law enforcement has to become global," he said. "Global law enforcements have to work together. They have to share information, and they have to find these guys and take'em down."