The internet can be dangerous and scary. We’ve seen the lists of ideas for better cybersecurity. The problem is, the tips aren’t helpful unless we act on them.
We know we should use long passwords and change them regularly. But do we?
Here are three reasons to encourage you to make yourself safer from cyber scammers and hackers, followed by four tips to put into action.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Bad things really can happen on the internet. A smooth-talking con artist on the other end of the phone can charm or bully you into revealing your Social Security number or credit card number, or malware can monitor your keyboard and capture your password to your favorite website. Criminals use this information to access your credit cards and bank accounts, especially if you use the same password for multiple accounts.
Make a plan you will act on. Think about what’s on your computer or smartphone that you don’t want to lose or give away. Keeping that top of mind can help motivate you to take steps to prevent you from being a victim of cyberattacks.
Maybe you know you won’t keep track of different passwords on all your internet-connected devices, but you are more likely to regularly update a strong password on the server in your home. That can be a good option if all your connections come through that one point of entry.
The time is now. Experts warn of a triple-threat these days. First, scammers are taking advantage of COVID-19 uncertainty, from offering phony cures and tests to promises of financial assistance. Second, with more people working from home due to social distancing, there may be fewer office-based security measures in place. Third, the FBI warns that increased use of mobile banking offers more chances for cybercrime.
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which can be a great time to act on this year’s theme, “Do your part, #BeCyberSmart—If You Connect It, Protect It.”
Here are four cybersecurity tips to keep you safe.
Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Many sites and apps make changing your password easy to do by clicking on the “forgot your password” link. The best passwords are at least eight characters and include different types of characters. Try using a memorable verse from your favorite song and adding a few numbers and special characters ($ ! _ &) or even a space.
If you are like most people, remembering all your passwords is a challenge. Choose a security option based on the value of what you’re protecting. The options to secure your bank and retirement account passwords might be different than how you store your social media passwords. Password apps keep them in one place and may be a great option for some passwords, but you can be in big trouble if you forget the password that lets you into that app.
Keeping passwords on paper in a notebook might be more secure than using the same password for everything, depending on how hidden that paper is from other people at the office or kids at home.
Install software updates. Apps and operating systems periodically send updates. Install them. They often include protections against the latest security threats.
But remember: Those updates come from the apps and not emails or social media notices. An email containing an update may be a scam. Instead of clicking on the link, go to the app’s website to see if updates really are available.
Use two-factor authentication. That’s just a fancy term for a technique that adds an extra layer of security to a password.
Banks increasingly use this system. When you try to connect with your bank, it may text a code number to your phone that you type in to complete the sign-in process for your account.
Answering a security question is similar to having a password. Both are something you know. That won’t provide the same level of security as a second factor, which will be something you have, like your phone to receive a passcode, or something you are, like a biometric fingerprint—which is in addition to something you know, like a password or security question.
Think before you click. Be wary of any offer or link that comes through the internet, whether by email or social media, or even a phone call instructing you to get online.
Don’t click on a link unless you know for certain what it is. Ideally, you should be expecting to receive the link.
Even emails from friends should be suspect. Hackers can impersonate someone you know to send a link or an attachment. Both can result in you downloading malware that can take control of your computer in ways you may not be able to detect. If you have any doubt—whether it’s a link to a software update or an attachment to a funny cat video—call the person to find out if they really sent it.
To take advantage of the great promise of the internet, we must recognize the peril. These simple steps can keep you reasonably safe.
Cybersecurity Awareness Month
Connected devices are an integral part of how we communicate and access services essential to our well-being. Data collected from these devices can include highly specific information about a person or business, which can be exploited by bad actors for criminal gain.
National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is recognized each October. Weekly themes this year focus on understanding and following security hygiene for connected devices and home networks; maintaining the security of connected devices for remote workers; the pivotal role connected devices play in the future of health care; and the overall future of connected devices.
If everyone does their part—implementing stronger security practices, raising community awareness, educating vulnerable audiences and training employees—our interconnected world will be safer for everyone.