Cyber Security: 4 Ways to Protect Yourself

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Every year, hackers find new ways to break into our computers.

Read on to discover how a few simple precautions can make a huge difference in protecting you from cyber-attacks.

Our society is more connected than ever before. A recent report showed that 30% of those surveyed have two to three more Internet-connected devices at home today than they did a year ago. While this means more convenience, it also makes us more vulnerable to identity theft, financial fraud, and other malicious cyber threats.

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 32% of Americans think protecting personal information online is too complex. The reality? Protection is easier than it looks.

Configure Correctly

One of the most common entry points for criminals is through programs that don’t have the latest security patches installed. It’s an easy problem to fix: When you’re prompted to update your software, make sure you hit install. You can also go to your system preferences to check for software updates. If possible, enable two-factor authentication: a security feature that requires you to enter an additional piece of information when logging in, usually a 4- or 6-digit code sent via text message.

Make sure to include anti-virus software as part of your security arsenal — and keep it updated. Many anti-virus programs can be scheduled to complete regular scans. Likewise, use a firewall. While anti-virus software scans incoming email and attachments, a firewall watches for external attempts to access your system and blocks communications with sources you don’t permit. Your operating system likely comes with a pre-installed firewall, but ensure it is turned on.

Secure your Wi-Fi Networks

“Password.” “Qwerty.” “123456.” Generic passwords, like these, are one of the main reasons people fall victim to cyber-attacks. Keep fraudsters guessing with something more secure.

Of all Wi-Fi users surveyed by the NCSA, 97% believed the data on their devices and home network was secure. Most networks, though, aren’t as secure as you think. For instance, the NCSA found that more than 40% of Americans fail to properly secure their wireless routers by not resetting the factory-set default passwords. Since your wireless router represents a major digital entry point for cyber-attacks, make sure the default password has been changed.

Change your network’s name, too. The default network name is often tied to the brand of router, and if a hacker knows the router brand, chances are good they will know how to hack into it. As an added precaution, you can encrypt the data on your network by enabling Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) security on your router.

Finally, disabling remote login keeps criminals outside your home from being able to login if they figure out your password.

As for free Wi-Fi hotspots, hackers can get into those, too. Configure your devices to always request approval before connecting to unknown networks so you can maintain control.

Next, turn off file sharing, as some operating systems make your local files accessible to any other device connected to the same network. If you do need to transmit sensitive data over public Wi-Fi, consider using virtual private network (VPN) software, which creates an encrypted channel that allows your data to travel safely to its destination.

Set Strong Passwords

Complicated passwords are better than simple ones. Yet, the most popular password of 2016 was 123456, according to Keeper Security. What’s more, one in three people use the same password for multiple sites.

Fortunately, there are things you can do keep your passwords secure. First, never use a word found in the dictionary, or personal information. Secondly, avoid easily guessed patterns and common sports or pop culture terms, like “Star Wars” or “Football.” Finally, it’s best to include a random mixture of at least 12 letters, numbers, and symbols — especially for sites that store sensitive financial information.

Stay Vigilant

One of the most common ways cybercriminals attempt to con people is through malware carried by phishing emails. These emails, which contain virus-laden attachments or links to websites that attempt to capture personal information, often look like they are coming from a company you know or trust. Upon closer inspection, though, they frequently contain typos or minor changes in the sender’s email address.

When in doubt, delete the message. Also, before entering any personal information online, check to make sure that you see a locked padlock icon in your browser’s status bar, and confirm that the address starts with “https.” Both are signs that your sensitive information is being encrypted.

As Internet connectivity evolves, we become even more exposed. The Internet of Things (devices that connect to other devices, such as “smart” thermostats), is now big business, which is why it’s more important than ever to protect yourself online.

At PurePoint, we invest in technology and processes that keep your financial transactions secure. Our security personnel also work diligently to detect threats and keep you informed. However, online security is a team effort. Stay vigilant to keep your personal information safe.

This article was helpful.