By Paul Gessler

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Between work, school, social events and campaigns, more of our lives have played out online in 2020. That’s opening up more opportunities for those trying to steal peoples’ personal information.

The FBI warned this month of spoofed election domains and email accounts designed to get you to click.

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Susi Hajeski, a senior computer scientist with the FBI, said those “lookalike domains” are leading to both malware and misinformation.

Despite their presence, she said the integrity of November’s election is strong.

Malware affects individuals and companies, many of whom have data held ransom by hackers doing it for profit like what happened to Baltimore City last year.

“The number of attacks is increasing. It’s just skyrocketed,” Hajeski said.

The netwalker ransomware, for instance, like others, even has customer support ready to walk the victim through payment and retrieving stolen data.

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“They’re out there doing this every day, every second, every millisecond, they’re hacking our systems,” Hajeski said.

School systems and governments are vulnerable, Hajeski said, particularly since so much activity has shifted online during the pandemic.

WJZ’s Paul Gessler: “How have threats changed during COVID, or have they just been amplified?”

Hajeski: “They’re attacking us like they were before. They changed their method because we’ve given them more opportunities to target us at home,”

She said people should update their computer and phone software especially virus scanning and make your passwords long and varied. If possible, use two-factor authentication to get into your accounts.

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It’s not exactly clear just how much money the netwalker ransomware hackers have made, but the FBI said just in a three-month period at the start of the pandemic, they were paid $55 million.

Paul Gessler