The multitude of connected devices, social media sites and online shopping sites have fundamentally changed the way we interact with the world around us. Each year brings new ways to connect to friends, businesses, but with each new connection, we increase risks our private personal information falls into the wrong hands. Below are some tips from cybersecurity experts to keep you safe in the digital world.

1. Use a passcode on your phone.
Your phone is the holy grail of personal information for a hacker. This alone should get you to password protect your phone, and one of the easiest ways to protect yourself.

2. Be careful with email links.
One of the most nefarious scams going is the ‘phishing’ scam. You receive an email looking like it came from your bank, credit card company, or a major company you likely do business with online, like Apple, Amazon or Netflix. The email says you need to update payment information in your account and provides you with a link to do so. You click on link, go to the site, and provide your credit card information or social security number. The problem is, that wasn’t the real site. It was a fake site set up by hackers that looks real enough to convince you to hand over the goods. Don’t EVER click on links in an email message; instead, go to the company’s web page directly, and follow the proper steps from there.

3. Use strong passwords.
When hackers want to find your password, they rely on powerful computer programs to generate hundreds of thousands of combinations of letters and numbers. Don’t use “1234” as your password. You won’t outsmart the machines. Use passwords made up of upper-and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Longer passwords are more secure, and the best ones are a random string of characters.

4. Be wary of public networks.
Wi-Fi hotspots are springing up in more and more places, from your doctor’s office to your favorite restaurant. While the appeal of free, fast internet is undeniable, these networks are not secure. It’s very easy for hackers using the network to trick your phone or computer into sharing everything you do online, including passwords, credit card numbers, and more. Avoid shopping online or accessing password protected sites, such as your bank accounts or email, when you are on a public network.

5. Stay up-to-date.
Online security is like a game of chess: bad guys find ways to get your data, then technology companies come up with fixes. Bad guys find another way in, which leads to another fix, and on and on. One of the ways technology companies fix these breaches is updating operating systems, apps, web browsers, etc. You are only protected if you install the updates. Using outdated software is the equivalent of leaving your back door wide open for criminals to walk in and take whatever they want. Set your phone or computer to automatically install updates when they are available, so you always use the latest version.

6. Practice good offline security habits.
The strongest password in the world is useless if it’s written on a note you’ve stuck to your monitor (and no, inside your desk drawer is not a better option). Keep sensitive information, account numbers, social security numbers, etc., that could be used to gain access to your online accounts locked away. Keep laptops and phones, locked with a password when not in use, and never leave them unattended in public places.

7. Stay private on social media.
Sometimes hackers don’t have to go too far to find information they need to take advantage of you. Many people conveniently post about it online through social media sites. Don’t make your private information public. Take advantage of the social media site’s security settings to restrict access to your information.

8. Use enhanced login security tools.
An increasing number of sites are offering enhanced login security tools, like two- factor authentication, to help protect their users. Texting or emailing a code to your cell phone or email to complete the login process provides an additional layer of protection. This gives you two advantages: even if someone obtains the password to the site, they won’t have any way to get the code they need to complete the login. Also, you will be notified anytime someone tries to log into the site. This gives you the opportunity to change your password and notify the site of the attempted attack. You should absolutely use two-factor authentication every time it is offered to you.

There is no single foolproof method to prevent all online attacks. But hackers are like any other predators: they seek the easiest and most vulnerable targets to attack. By taking these simple steps, you become a much less appealing target, making it more likely bad guys will look for an easier, less informed target.

I hope you’ve found this to be educational and helpful. As we always emphasize, it is our job to assist you! If you have any questions or would like to discuss any matters, please feel free to give us or any of my team members a call.  Feel free to pass this onto someone important to you.

Thank you very much for the trust and confidence you’ve placed in our team.

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