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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 can charm or bully you into revealing your Social Security or credit card numbers. Malware can monitor your keyboard and capture your passwords. 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. 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, there may be fewer office-based security measures in place. Third, the FBI warns increased use of mobile banking offers more chances for cybercrime.
Here are four cybersecurity tips to keep you safe:
Many sites and apps make changing your password easy to do by clicking 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 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.
Apps and operating systems periodically send updates. Install them. They often include protections against the latest security threats.
But remember: Make sure the updates come from the apps and not from emails or social media. 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.
Two-factor authentication 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 pass code 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 use something you have—like your phone to receive a passcode—or something you are—like a biometric fingerprint. This second factor is in addition to something you know, like a password or security question.
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.
These simple steps can keep you reasonably safe.
Computer maintenance is as important as car maintenance. In addition to the reasons in this article, most PC’s are infected with viruses because they are not up-to-date. For only $6 a month, PowerNET can ensure your computer receives all the standard updates to keep you safe and prolong the life of your PC.
Visit www.BentonREA.org/PC or call 509-786-4004 to learn more.