October is Cybersecurity Month, and we embrace any chance to talk about better practices when it comes to keeping yourself and your information safe online. The fact is, we put more and more of our personal information online every single day. We share our locations and personal info on social media. We increasingly use services like online banking. There is more information about us available online than we likely realize, which is why we need to be increasingly careful to safeguard that information. Here are some quick ways to do that!
Never Say Never
The response of many people to stories in the news about another data hack of a major company is often something resembling denial; the belief that it couldn’t happen to you because you’re careful with your online presence. But the recent hacks of both Yahoo and Equifax may prove that to be impossible.
Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the US, had its secure data exposed by hackers in mid-2017. Names, social security numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers and more were stolen. What that means is that if you have a credit report, your data was at risk of exposure.
Yahoo reported that when they were hacked, something like billion accounts were vulnerable. More recently, that number was adjusted upward, to closer to three billion. That’s every existing Yahoo account that was exposed by hackers and could be used to mine private information on every single person who used Yahoo for anything.
We are more online than we realize, and when these massive data breaches occur, there’s a good chance that we are going to be affected by them.
Beware of Public Wifi
Full disclosure, this article is currently being written in a Starbucks, on their Wi-fi network, so we could probably stand to take some of our own advice on this one.
That being said, using publicly-accessible wi-fi networks (that is, a network without a password requirement) poses a potential risk of exposure, as a hacker is capable of infiltrating a computer if they are on the same network at the time.
Now, Starbucks has a little bit more security in place than your average public network, but the risk remains. When on a public network, you should avoid using anything with a login, like social media, email, your online banking, etc.
Making your password REALLY COMPLICATED may not be doing anything.
You know how a lot of websites with logins require your password to have a mix of upper and lower-case letters, one special character, numbers, letters, etc. etc.?
Turns out, that may not be as helpful as we all thought.
Make no mistake, you should still use something more complicated than “password” to access your bank statements, but there are far more useful techniques than gibberish passwords to keep you protected, like two-step verification, that usually requires you to have an additional code sent to your mobile device. This method alone is always safer than relying on a particularly strong password.
Here’s the best way to avoid phishing scams – if you receive an email you are not expecting (even from someone you know), and they have included an attachment, a link, or anything beyond simple text in the email, do not click on it.
Phishing is a hacking technique that involves gaining access to a private computer by compelling a user to click on a link or open an attachment, usually by attempting to look like a reputable company or authority of some kind, and then gaining access to credit card numbers, logins, or other personal information. A hacker can’t access your computer simply through an email, but they by getting you to click on something else through a link or attachment. Always be wary of an unfamiliar sender, no matter how legitimate they may seem.
The world is moving online. That’s not a bad thing! We are more connected than ever as a society, and that has led to an amazing shift in how we live our everyday lives. But this huge shift means a shift in thinking about how we stay safe, both online and off. We use security systems in our homes, and lock our doors at night. We simply have to extend that level of safety to our online lives as well.