1 – Keep Your Devices Updated
This might be an obvious one but many people forget to do it. A device that’s behind on updates is more vulnerable to malware or other attempts to access your data. One of the main reasons why providers and companies update their software is to add security features.
Keep these three things in mind:
- Your web browser should update security features regularly. Make sure updates are set to automatic.
- Let your operating system on any devices you use update software automatically.
- Some of the content you access requires plugins to open. Make sure they get updated as well on top of your browser.
2 – Protect Yourself Against Phishing
Phishing is one of the most common attempts to gain access to your information. A phishing attempt is, at its core, an impersonation attempt. Most commonly, criminals spoof a common web address you look at and you click because you have done it so many times. Except in this case, the link looks just a little off and leads to you filling out information that’s then collected and stored for criminals to use. In other cases, it’s an e-mail that looks to come from a legitimate sender. Once you open the e-mail and maybe even download an attachment, the criminals are in. The FBI reports phishing attacks were the number one cybercrime type, with 300,497 complaints reported. The total losses due to phishing attacks exceeded $10.3 billion.
Follow these three guidelines to help you be safe:
- Be careful with e-mails that seem unfamiliar.
- Hover over a link to discover where it directs to. Pay attention to what the link looks like.
- If it seems too good to be true or too extreme on an action, like someone calling to arrest you or asking for payment, don’t fall for it and report it.
3 – Use Strong Passwords
Passwords are the key to the front door of your online accounts. Stolen passwords will always be the easiest way for someone to breach your personal accounts.
Here are tips to make your account feel like Fort Knox:
- It doesn’t always have to be a crazy mixture of characters you won’t remember. Make sure you have at least eight characters and a maximum length of 64 characters.
- Do not use the same password twice.
- Include lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
As a bonus tip, Two-Factor Authentication (TFA) is another form of verification that makes it more difficult for a compromised account password to be used. Accounts that support two-factor authentication require both your password and an additional piece of information to log in to your account. Activate it if you can.
4 – Avoid or use caution when connected to Public Networks
The convenience of online banking and financial websites allows users to access their financial records and complete transactions anywhere they can access the internet. But, not all networks are created equally when it comes to security. A coffee shop’s free Wi-Fi might not provide the same encryption and protections as your home router or computer network.
Watch for these three:
- Avoid accessing sensitive websites, such as personal banking sites, when utilizing a public or unsecured Wi-Fi network.
- Stick to sites that use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server.
- Watch for “https” at the beginning of the web address, which means the site is secure.
5 – Protect Your Data
Personal data breaches were at the number two spot in the FBI’s year-end report of cybercrime types in 2022. Many companies have experienced large-scale data breaches in which customer data and account information was leaked to unauthorized third-party sources. While you are not responsible for a company not safeguarding their data appropriately, you can mitigate risk with a couple of simple tips.
- Consider setting up a fraud alert on your credit report or you can freeze your report altogether to reduce the risk of fraudulent activity.
- Know what data is stored by companies. If you feel like a certain service or account is no longer needed, have them delete your personal information.
6. Check Your Phone
In a recent industry trend report, data showed that 80% of phishing attacks targeted mobile devices and that users are more likely to fall for a scam or phishing attack when it happens via text. Think about all of the personal data and information stored on your phone. With technology now enabling us to use our phones as wallets, identification and more, it’s a goldmine for anyone looking to do damage. These steps can help make your mobile device safer.
- Make sure you update your operating system regularly or when it prompts to update.
- Don’t store sensitive information like your Social Security Number or password unsecure on your phone.
Before you download an app, take some time to do research on where it’s developed and what data it collects.
- Read the reviews. Apps can have access to data like your location and contacts.
7. Protect Your Online Personality
With social media becoming an important part of our lives, it’s also become a hub for criminals to gather information and data. In 2022, 66% of adults on social media said they were messaged by strangers at some point, with 55% asked to transfer money.
- Limit Personal Identifiable Information on social media. This can include information on where you live and how old you are.
- Watch out for posts that want you to comment on a whimsical detail like “your birth month determines which celebrity you marry, are you happy?” – Once you comment, it can be the first step in collecting personal data.
- Review your privacy settings on platforms like Facebook to check what other users can see. The more personal information that is available the more risk you are exposed to. Click here to read more about Facebook’s privacy settings and how to protect yourself.
8. Anti-Virus Protection and Firewalls
Consider buying anti-virus software for your device. This is especially important on personal computers that might not run on the latest operating system. These types of software immediately identify if there is malware on your device that’s trying to access information.
The term firewall sounds intimidating, and it’s meant to be. Firewalls shield your devices against outside attackers. Most systems have their own built in and your internet service provider most likely also has one in place to protect your home Wi-Fi.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency gives you an easy-to-understand guide on firewalls here.
9. Backups and Securing Your Data
Malware and ransomware can lock you out of your device and even disable access permanently. If you have to delete hard drives, reinstall operating systems or swap to other devices, your data might be permanently lost. Backups are an important part of making sure you are prepared if something might happen.
- Utilize a combination of storage. Cloud storage services can enable automatic backups but it’s also recommended to have physical hard drives.
- Follow the 3-2-1 rule: Three copies of your data on two difference devices and one copy off-site (in the cloud).
- Set an automatic backup cycle or make sure to set reminders to update regularly, at least every other week.
10. Use Common Sense
Treat cybersecurity like physical security. It’s an important part of your life and you want to make sure it won’t compromise your financials, personal life or anything else. If something sounds too good to be true it most often is.
The next time you get a text from an unknown number or someone claiming to be one of your service providers, read more carefully and examine the text. Spend time reviewing how you’ve treated cybersecurity in the past and then adjust your strategy based on some of the tips described on our list. Stay informed and stay safe by knowing what risks you might be exposed to.
If you’re interested in learning more about cybersecurity, click here to access tips from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
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