Cybercrime is becoming more prevalent than ever before. Not only is it dangerous, but it proves to be expensive to remedy as well. Just like it is important to keep track of your finances, it is important to be aware of your online life and digital security. While the list below is not exhaustive, it does contain 10 practices that can greatly improve your online security.

  1. Use a Password Manager and Keep a Secure Master Password
    • A password manager is a program that keeps all your passwords in one place. It may be easier to remember one password for all your accounts, but it is much more secure to vary your passwords from one account to the next. Most password managers include a feature that generates and saves unique passwords for each account you add.
    • Keep in mind that you will need to remember one “master password” to access your password manager. It is important that this master password is easy to remember, yet hard for someone else to guess. Some professionals have suggested choosing four random words as the master password. It is significantly harder for any computer or human to guess due to the length that the password will be. If that password truly does not have any pattern, then it shouldn’t exist anywhere on the internet already.
  2. Keep Software Up-to-Date
    • The older a system is, the more time hackers have to figure out vulnerabilities in that system. To help mitigate this risk, consider:
      • Turning on automatic system updates
      • Ensuring that your internet browser has automatic security updates
      • Keeping web browser plug-ins, such as Java, updated
  3. Back Up Your Data
    • Not all hackers want to steal your data, some want to encrypt or erase it. If you fall victim to ransomware, the only way to restore your important data is to erase the systems and restore it with a backup.
    • Security managers typically follow the 3-2-1 Backup Rule:
      • Keep three copies of your data: Two copies on different external or local hard drives and one copy on the cloud.
  4. Use Anti-Virus Protection and Firewall
    • Installing an anti-virus software prepares your device to combat viruses, malware, phishing attacks, and more. Make sure to find anti-virus software from a trusted source!
    • Firewalls are useful in screening out malicious activity that occurs over the internet. Most of our devices come equipped with a firewall already installed and routers typically have firewalls built in as well.
  5. Be Sensitive to Phishing Scams
    • A phishing scam is an email, phone call , or even a text message that is designed to get the receiver to divulge sensitive information. These messages often communicate that you have “won” an award or raffle and need to provide personal information to claim your prize.
    • As many have experienced, phishing scams are more prevalent than ever. Be extra prudent when receiving messages from unknown sources.
  6. Be Cautious of Links
    • If you receive a suspicious email or text message, avoid clicking on any links. You can hover over the link to find out where it directs you.
    • This tactic is incredibly popular in the form of requesting you to access banking statements, flight reservations, and password recovery. These links tend to take the user to a fake site that looks like its counterpart. If you are unsure of the link’s validity, visit the sight directly rather than going through the link provided in the suspicious message.
  7. Be Careful Using Public WiFi
    • Although public wifi has come a long way since early adoption, some risks remain. The use of mobile apps makes it near impossible to tell whether your data is being encrypted. Best practice is to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to use while on public wifi. The VPN makes it more difficult for hackers to obtain access to your data. If you don’t have a VPN, try using your cell network instead of logging into public wifi.
    • There are third party companies that can set up a VPN for you. If you go this route, makes sure the VPN is from a trusted source!
  8. Avoid Using Debit Cards Online
    • Because your debit card links directly to your bank account, it is easier for a hacker to get access to your information. When making online payments, try to use a credit card or an online payment method such as PayPal, and opt out of saving your credit card information for future payments. This provides an extra layer of protection between your bank account and hackers.
  9. Use Mobile Devices Safely
    • While technical security of your device is incredibly important, the physical security of that devices matters, too. If you plan to leave your device unattended for a period, make sure it is locked or even shut down so that no one else can use it.
  10. Keep Track of Your Digital Footprint
    • Everyone leaves a “footprint” across the internet. This could be created by you, such as your social media page, or it could be a trail of data compiled by someone else based on comments or reviews you may have left on other platforms.
    • Keep track of your online accounts, what information is stored on those accounts, and delete accounts that you no longer use.