How often do you think about your online privacy? Do you enter your personal information and credit cards on every site that asks? Have you ever had a security incident? If not, you’re lucky — 38 people are victims of identity theft every hour, and as we integrate our real lives even further with our online lives more risks are beginning to crop up. Though it’s not possible to protect yourself from every threat online, there are some easy steps you can take to help prevent identity theft and other cyber security breaches. Here are five simple cyber security tips that can help you prevent a future headache.
1. Be Realistic About Online Privacy
First, you need to be realistic about what strangers can see about you online. True, in an ideal world, everything we put online would be kept private at all times unless we chose to share it publicly. Unfortunately, if you post or share online, particularly with a company, it’s safe to assume it’s public. There is a surprising lack of awareness surrounding this issue, especially among the younger generation, who grew up with advanced technology. 44% of Millennials believe that their personal information online is kept private at most times, a huge disconnect from the realities of cyber security. This leads to greater vulnerabilities to cyber threats and identity theft. Be aware of, and be careful about, what and where you post online — you never know who may see it.
2. Create Unique Passwords
Let’s be honest: you’ve reused your passwords. You’ve used simple passwords. Most people reuse the same passwords over and over again. Most people know it’s better to create unique passwords for different sites and platforms, and yet only a tiny percentage of internet users actually follow through with this tip. This is a huge problem, because cybercrime affects 3,000 businesses each year, potentially exposing their customers’ and employees’ passwords. This can be devastating if you use the same password on every site. To prevent this, the best bet is to create a unique, difficult to hack password for each site. To make this a little easier, you might consider adding a cue word within the password that is related to the site, to help you remember. This tip isn’t always easy to implement, but it’s vitally important to your security.
3. Cover Your Webcam
Why does Mark Zuckerberg cover the webcam and microphone on his laptop? To prevent people from looking in or listening. Skilled hackers have the ability to gain remote access to these devices by using remote access trojans, which could potentially lead to them spying or gaining information that could be used for fraud or theft. While Zuckerberg is a bigger target than most people, it’s still not a bad idea to consider covering your webcam and microphone — just in case.
4. Smart Syncing
It’s very convenient to sync your apps to different platforms, but if you choose to sync everything you can, you’re sending out a lot of information that could ultimately be accessed in a cyberattack. Worse, if your phone is used as a verification method, it could become vulnerable to hacking as well. Be cautious about syncing, and consider whether you really need to update your data at all times before proceeding.
5. Triple Check Site Authenticity
Cyber criminals are very good at making websites and emails look legitimate, even when they aren’t. Double and triple check site authenticity before you proceed—there are several signs to look for when trying to spot a possible hack, including:
- The domain name is spelled incorrectly (hackers often create fake websites that appear extremely similar)
- A payment site without a padlock symbol displayed by your browser
- A site that is full of ads that don’t match the site
- A redirect that asks you to provide login information before entering (these sites often front as social media sites)
- A link within an email that has a phony or suspicious signature
Go with your gut, and back off if anything looks suspicious!
Do Your Best
Implementing these steps can really help to reduce your chances of a cyberattack. It’s important to remember, however, that no system is perfect, and even if you follow these guidelines, you might still get hacked one day. You can do everything on this list to help prevent future headaches, but unfortunately, you may still run into problems. What’s important is doing your best and taking proactive steps for preventing fraud and identity theft. Don’t just resign yourself to potential threats, fight against them! It’s much easier to prevent problems than it is to fix them. Set yourself up for success by practicing safe cyber activity and taking these precautions — if you don’t, you could find yourself dealing with the consequences in the near future.
Featured photo credit: Blue Coat Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0 License) via flickr.com