Cybersecurity is on the forefront on people’s minds – I am hearing a lot more about nefarious activities. It seems the baby boomer generation is at a higher risk of being targeted. Thankfully there are some proactive measures you can take to help protect your information. Below are 10 ideas to increase your cybersecurity.
Make sure your passwords are strong and do not reuse passwords. Hackers know how much of a pain it is to set and remember passwords so they use this against us. They often purchase a list of usernames and passwords that have been breached and will try to use these same credentials on other sites. You want your password to be a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, symbols that have no ties to personal information or dictionary words – the longer the better, 12 characters is a good length.
- If keeping track of all of those passwords is too difficult consider using a password manager. Password managers like Dashlane, LastPass, 1Password and KeePass are safe and typically cost $10-30 a year. They use strong encryption to secure your password files.
- Enable multi-factor authentication if available on any online accounts especially bank and investment accounts. This provides an extra layer of security to your information by requiring a one-time code in addition to a password when you log into your account. The code is typically sent by a text message or an authenticator app.
- Be diligent and look closely at text messages and emails you receive as they could be a phishing scam. I have seen phishing emails come through from Amazon, banks even government agencies. With the war between Russia and Ukraine there has been an uptick in phishing emails coming from “utility companies” and “financial institutions”. Phishing emails look like they come from reputable sources and will ask you to login or share information. Many times, directing you to a webpage that is branded as the company the scammer is impersonating.
- Create a mySocialSecurity account on ssa.gov. It has been reported that hackers have begun creating accounts on the Social Security website with compromised Social Security numbers. This is problematic as once they are in the account; they can reroute payments to their own bank accounts or even claim benefits early.
- Keep your software up to date. Many hacks occur due to outdated software. It is easy to postpone updates but this is something you do not want to delay.
- Do not over share on social media. Cute Facebook posts or quizzes that prompt you to share the year you graduated from high school, your pet’s name, favorite color and information on your first car could be collecting this data. These are usually the same answers needed for typical security questions. Hackers scour through posts and some have been able to use this information to reset bank and email passwords! Some posts are created by legitimate sources looking to connect with their community on social media – the problem is the data is there for those with less honest interests to use.
- Review privacy settings and data sharing policies on apps before you download them. Often the developers of apps will sell the data they collect to third-party advertisers – these advertisers can then put personalized ads on your device based on the preferences learned from your activity. “Free” apps are not free – often they are collecting or selling your data in exchange for use. Make sure the app is from a reputable source, like the App Store or Google Play. Some malicious app developers create look-a-likes for popular apps – make sure you are downloading the real app. You want to make sure the policies are easy to read not full of legal jargon that is difficult to understand. Also check the permissions – do you need to give a photo app access to your microphone? Use good judgement here.
- Make sure your Wi-Fi is password-protected or better yet use a VPN or virtual private network. A VPN creates a secure, encrypted internet connection and makes it more difficult for hackers to infiltrate your data. Without a VPN, hackers could access your network through insecure Wi-Fi settings. A VPN provides an encrypted server and hides your IP address even if you are using public Wi-Fi, this keeps your data private.
- Once a year pull your credit reports from annualcreditreport.com – this is the only source for your free credit reports authorized by the Federal government. It is helpful to have your credit reports ran annually from each of the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion and this can be done from annualcreditreport.com. This way you are able to see what activity has taken place and fix anything that looks incorrect or like a breach. If you’d like to be more proactive other steps you can take are placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit report. These measures are free and can protect you from identity theft or limit misuse of compromised information. A fraud alert requires creditors to verify your identity before opening a new credit while a freeze cuts access to your credit unless you lift the freeze making it unlikely new accounts would be opened in your name without your consent.
We hope you found this information helpful and have come away with a few action items you can implement to increase your cybersecurity.