Do Your Part: Be Cyber Smart
Discover tips for making yourself safer from cyber scammers and hackers
Photo by SasinParaksa- stock.adobe.com
We all know the internet can be dangerous, and many of us have seen the lists of ideas for better cybersecurity. The problem is, cybersecurity tips aren’t helpful unless we act on them. October is 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.” This article includes four tips for making yourself safer from cyber scammers and hackers, but first, let’s look at a few reasons that might encourage you to put those tips into action.
Be on your toes. A smooth-talking con artist on the phone can charm you into revealing your Social Security Number or credit card number, or malware can monitor your keyboard and capture passwords. Criminals use this information to access credit cards and bank accounts, especially if you use the same password for multiple accounts.
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 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 that increased use of mobile banking offers more chances for cybercrime.
So, here are four cybersecurity tips to keep you safe:
1. Use strong passwords. And change them regularly. The best passwords are at least eight characters and include different types of characters. Password apps can keep them in one place and may be a great option for some passwords, but you can be in 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 secure that paper is from others.
2. Install software updates. Your apps and operating systems will periodically send updates. Install them—they often include protections against the latest security threats. But remember, those updates come from the apps and not from 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 there really are updates available.
3. Use two-factor authentication. That phrase is a fancy word for a technique that adds an extra layer of security in addition to a password. Banks increasingly use this system—when you try to connect with them, the bank may text a code number to your phone that you type in to complete the sign-in process. A second factor will be something you have, like your phone to receive a passcode, or something you are, like a biometric fingerprint, in addition to something you know, like a password or security question.
4. Think before you click. Be wary of any offer or link that comes through the internet or even a phone call instructing you to get online. Don’t click on a link unless you know for certain what it is. Even emails from friends should be suspect—hackers can impersonate someone you know—they can result in you downloading malware that can take control of your computer. If you have any doubt, whether it’s a link to a software update or an attachment to a funny cat video, give the sender a phone call to verify
To take advantage of the great promise of the internet, we must also recognize the peril. These are relatively simple steps you can take now to keep yourself reasonably safe.