Do you think your life is too boring for a scammer, hacker, or identity thief to target? If so, you’re not alone. Most people believe that cybercriminals only target banks, corporations, or wealthy celebrities.
Sadly, as cyber attacks continue to grow, so does the target population for scammers to now include individual users like you and me. Cybercriminals may steal, alter, or destroy data by hacking into a susceptible device like your personal computer. Even novice smartphone or tablet users are just as vulnerable to such attacks.
Simply put, as long as you’re connected to the Internet, you can become a victim of cyber attacks. So that’s why we wanted to walk you through some of the most important cybersecurity steps you can take to protect your personal data.
Practice these tips to become a smart, informed user of technology:
1. Stay Current with Software Updates. Keep all of your devices updated with the most recent software to protect yourself against cyberattacks. Don’t forget about your smartphone and tablet – they require regular software updates too.
2. Choose Strong Passwords. Create long, complicated passwords – eight characters simply are not enough. Update passwords regularly and use a different password for each site or app. Manage passwords carefully, and consider using a dedicated password app. Never, ever store passwords in your browser for easy log-in, especially for online phone carrier or email accounts (phone and email accounts are often used for two-factor authentication on many accounts and consequently could provide cybercriminals access to all of your online accounts).
3. Browse Carefully. Make sure your internet connection is secure. Don’t log onto public wi-fi, especially if you’ll be doing online banking or shopping. Keep online accounts secure when paying bills by logging out of each account and closing the browser when finished. Stay on top of your accounts by regularly checking balances and statements so that you may quickly identify fraudulent activity.
4. Practice Safe Clicking. Beware of intrusive pop-ups or emails warning of fake viruses. These annoying false alerts may have been triggered by clicking on a malicious link from an email or website, or worse yet, by landing on a page running scripts containing viruses. Consider the source of sites that result in a Google search. Don’t browse unknown sites and never click on suspicious links.
5. Download Selectively. Avoid opening emails or attachments that you’re not expecting. Even if you receive an email that appears to be from a friend or acquaintance, it may actually be a phishing scam. These types of fraudulent emails seem to be sent by a’ trusted contact,’ and ask you to open a link or an attached file. The real sender, however, may be a cyber thief looking to access your contacts, or worse yet, your personal data.
6. Share Less Sensitive Information. You wouldn’t share personal information with an unsolicited caller requesting it, would you? So why would you share confidential information online? With over 3 billion social media users worldwide, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have become a hacker’s favorite playground.
To prevent sharing sensitive information with the wrong people on social media, use the most robust privacy settings. Don’t share identifying information like your birth date, hometown, or even your mother’s maiden name on these platforms.
No matter how dull your life may seem, you are a target. Cyber threats should be treated with caution. You may not be a millionaire yet, but hackers won’t mind. Take precautions and protect yourself online to avoid becoming a victim of a cybercriminal.
Denise Keiser is a leader, mentor, and trainer specializing in money and housing with 20 years of experience in real estate and finance. She is seen on TV as the “Money Expert” for WLNS-6 Lansing’s “Money Monday” where she provides weekly money tips. Denise currently serves as the executive director of the Center for Financial Health, a Lansing-based nonprofit that inspires a lifelong commitment to financial wellness. She also serves as a Fund Development Specialist with Elder Law of Michigan. She may be reached at (517)708-2550 or firstname.lastname@example.org . The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.