As technology advances, so do the methods that hackers use to steal your information. That’s why raising cybersecurity awareness is more important now than ever before. You need to know how to fend off cyber threats like email phishing and identity theft before it takes place. Below are a few tools and tips to help protect yourself in this highly evolving digital age.
Create Strong Passwords
The easiest way to access an account is to have the password to it; weak passwords cause 81% of all hacking related data breaches. That’s why hackers and scammers usually try to obtain passwords before anything else. Despite that, people rarely put thought into their passwords. For example, the password used for the U.S. nuclear missile unit was “00000000” for twenty years. Passwords should be complex and unpredictable strings of letters and numbers. They shouldn’t contain any common words, and they should be lengthy. A password that is over 16 characters would take thousands of years to crack from a brute force attack!
There’s a simple way to secure your accounts, and it involves enabling multi-factor authentication (also known as two-factor authentication). Every account needs a username and password, but with 2FA, they’ll require an additional piece of information. This can be anything from a one-time code to a fingerprint. Enabling this security feature can help ensure that your email, mobile wallet, and your Hudson Heritage FCU online banking account are protected from cyber threats. If a hacker were to use a stolen username and password, the account would then ask for a code. The information would be sent to the original owner’s email address and deny the hacker access.
Ecommerce websites are usually secure, but hackers can mimic them to obtain usernames and passwords. In an act known as “pharming,” hackers could even redirect a website’s traffic to a fake site. Once you’re taken there, the website injects malicious code in your system and poisons your DNS. This is just one of many ways in which a hacker can steal your information. That’s why you need to be cautious with the websites you visit. Not all Ecommerce sites are what they claim to be.
Protect Yourself from Online Fraud
The bottom line is that whenever you’re online, you’re vulnerable. If devices on your network are compromised for any reason, or if hackers break through an encrypted firewall, someone could be eavesdropping on you—even in your own home on encrypted Wi-Fi.
- Practice safe web surfing wherever you are by checking for the “green lock” or padlock icon in your browser bar— this signifies a secure connection.
- When you find yourself out in the great “wild Wi-Fi West,” avoid free Internet access with no encryption.
- If you do use an unsecured public access point, practice good Internet hygiene by avoiding sensitive activities (e.g., banking) that require passwords or credit cards. Your personal hotspot is often a safer alternative to free Wi-Fi.
- Don’t reveal personally identifiable information such as your bank account number, SSN, or date of birth to unknown sources.
- Type website URLs directly into the address bar instead of clicking on links or cutting and pasting from the email.
Protecting Against Phishing
Phishing is what happens when a hacker uses email, phone calls, social media, and any other form of communication to steal your password. Here are a few ways to prevent them from doing so;
- Think before you act. Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately. Many phishing emails attempt to create a sense of urgency, causing the recipient to fear their account or information is in jeopardy. If you receive a suspicious email that appears to be from someone you know, reach out to that person directly on a separate secure platform. If the email comes from an organization but still looks “phishy,” reach out to them via customer service to verify the communication.
- Be wary of hyperlinks. Avoid clicking on hyperlinks in emails and hover over links to verify authenticity. Also ensure that URLs begin with “https.” The “s” indicates encryption is enabled to protect users’ information.
- Install and update anti-virus software. Make sure all of your computers, Internet of Things devices, phones, and tablets are equipped with regularly updated antivirus software, firewalls, email filters, and anti-spyware.