Get familiar with Cyber Basics

Computer Hacker with a black mask holding an open lock and a laptop

At a time when we are more connected than ever, being “cyber smart” is of the utmost importance.

This year has already seen more than a fair share of cyber attacks and breaches, including the high-profile attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and other critical infrastructure. Furthermore, cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated with more evolved bad actors cropping up each day.

Luckily, there are several steps that we can take on a daily basis to mitigate risks and stay one step ahead of malefactors. Here are a few quick tips:

Enable multifactor authentication

Multifactor authentication adds that necessary second check to verify your identity when logging in to one of your accounts.

By requiring multiple methods of authentication, your account is further protected from being compromised, even if a bad actor hijacks your password. In this way, MFAs make it more difficult for password cracking tools to enable attackers to break into accounts.

Use strong passphrases and a password manager

All too often strong passphrases and password managers are overlooked.

Spending more time online during the pandemic has certainly contributed to more bad actors prowling for accounts to attack. Using long, complex and unique passwords is a good way to stop your account from being hacked, and an easy way of keeping track of and remembering your passwords is by using a password manager.

Benton REA’s PowerNET recommends these password managers:

Perform software updates When a device prompts that it’s time to update the software, it may be tempting to simply click postpone, and ignore the message. However, having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system on devices is one of the best defenses against online threats. Don’t wait—update.

Do your research

Common sense is a crucial part of maintaining good online hygiene.

An intuitive step to stay safe online is to do some research before downloading anything new to your device, such as apps.

Before downloading any new app on your device, check who created it, what the user reviews say and if there are any articles published online about the app’s privacy and security features.

Check your settings

Be diligent to double check your privacy and security settings and be aware who can access your documents. This extends from Google docs, to Zoom calls and beyond.

For meetings on Zoom, for example, create passwords so only those invited to the session can attend, and restrict who can share their screen or files with the rest of the attendees.

Download free antivirus software

Benton REA’s PowerNET employees recommend several free antivirus programs you can install on your personal computer. Download them at

You may also consider PowerNET’s PC maintenance service which includes an antivirus program, maintenance on updates to your software and a daily security check for just $6 a month.

Being cyber smart and maintaining stellar online hygiene is the best way to protect yourself and others from cyber attacks. No single tip is foolproof, but taken together they can make a real difference for taking control of your online presence.

Following these tips is also easy and free. By taking preventive measures and making a habit of practicing online safety, you can decrease your odds of being hacked exponentially—and prevent lost time and money, as well as annoyance.

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