In these times, we are connected virtually more than ever. Internet usage has been ramping up rapidly for years now, and then came Covid. Many of us were forced into a completely digital world, not only personally, but also for work and school. A large portion of the U.S. workforce is still operating in virtual or hybrid environments 18 months after Covids' onset in the U.S.. Our rapidly increasing reliance on technology makes us very vulnerable to cybersecurity safety concerns, such as identity theft, phishing, security breaches, viruses and malware attacks. Luckily, there are several simple ways to proactively mitigate risks and stay one step ahead of many potential cybersecurity issues. Here are a few pointers:
Creating strong passwords is one of the simplest ways to prevent yourself from cybersecurity attacks. Choose passwords that are hard to guess, containing a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using common password phrases or repeating number or letter sequences. Also, try not to use the same passwords for multiple apps or accounts. Once a hacker gains access to one password, it makes it incredibly easy for them to access other accounts if they have the same password. It is very common for people to use the same passwords, so they have less to memorize. If you find yourself in this boat, consider using a password protection application or storage system to store all of your passwords and therefore requiring less memorization.
Enable Multi-factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is becoming increasingly available, and should be used whenever possible in order to protect your online identity most thoroughly. MFA requires a user to enter 2 or more pieces of information in order to verify their identity and allow access to a particular account or website. Most commonly the 2 factors used are your password, and a code that is either emailed or sent via text message to you. In turn, you enter the code in the appropriate app or website in order to gain access. MFAs make it much more difficult for hackers to crack into your accounts. By adding this second check, the account or app cannot be accessed without that second piece of information, providing protection EVEN IF a hacker gets your password.
Install Security Software
Having comprehensive security software installed on your devices will help protect you from all kinds of potential cybersecurity attacks. There are many options out there, ranging from higher priced security suites to free options available online. Protect your devices, at minimum, with a good quality free program including a virus and malware protection. I suggest setting up your software to automatically update itself, as there are new forms of these cyber threats released daily and the software is constantly updated to catch the current bugs. Also, set up the software so it automatically scans your system daily. The scans and updates can be configured to run at a time when you are not actively using your device for even more convenience.
Update, Update, Update!
It’s not just your cybersecurity software that needs to be updated on a regular basis. All devices have operating system updates that need to be installed regularly. Much like cybersecurity software, these updates often contain bug fixes and other security elements that strengthen your device's protection. Consider setting up your devices to install automatic updates so you don’t miss out on these.
Be “Private” on Social Media
Social media can be a feeding ground for hackers to gain personal information that can give them the ability to steal your identity. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer security questions in the password reset tools. Seemingly harmless information such as mother’s maiden name, high school attended, or best man/maid of honor in your wedding can be alarmingly easy for hackers to figure out on social media. Avoid posts that have information that can be compiled by hackers to steal your identity. Also, limiting who can see your profile can limit risk drastically here. Consider adjusting settings to make your profiles private to help control who can see your information.
Shopping online raises a whole host of concerns, because generally we are releasing payment information in these online transactions. All too often, hackers will obtain payment information this way with online purchases. They use your information for other online purchases. In addition, online account information is taken and even made into fake debit cards, which are sold on the black market! Before shopping online, make sure you are using a website that is secure. To verify this, look at the web address and make sure there is a little padlock at the start of the address, and that the web address starts with “https:”. This tells you it’s a secure site that encrypts your information, providing optimal security when you need to provide payment information for purchases.
Being “cyber smart” and following some basic internet safety suggestions is the best way to protect yourself and others from cyber attacks. No single tip is foolproof, but taken together they can make a real difference for taking control of your online presence.. By taking preventive measures and making a habit of practicing online safety, you can decrease your odds of being hacked exponentially - and prevent lost time and money.
View more related content below:
This commentary on this website reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints and analyses of the Financial Strategies Group, Inc employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by Financial Strategies Group, Inc or performance returns of any Financial Strategies Group, Inc Investments client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Financial Strategies Group, Inc manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Written by: Kristin Prieur