David K. Hovis

10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Cyber Threats & Identity Theft

While computers and smart phones have made our lives easier, they have also made us more vulnerable to cyber threats and predators.  We may be less likely to have our wallets or purses stolen today, but we face a very likely threat of having our personal identifiable information (PII) compromised.  How many of you have been impacted by a company where you shopped or have an account, and they suffered a cyber security breach and your information was compromised?  I certainly have and would guess that many of you have as well.

There is no way to prevent all these types of data breaches, but you can protect yourself by taking extra steps when you access websites and cruise through the cyber world.  Here are 10 suggestions to help protect you from cyber predators.

  1. Strengthen passwords.  Create STRONG passwords or passphrases that are at least 12 characters in length and include upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.  A strong password with 12 characters takes 200 years to hack versus an 8-character password which only takes 19 minutes!
  2. Change passwords regularly.  Recommended frequency is every 60 - 90 days.  
  3. Protect your passwords.  Don’t share passwords with others or leave them written down where someone could find them.  Use a different password for your banking/Paypal/Venmo in case your other online passwords get compromised.
  4. Secure your devices.  Don’t leave devices unlocked and unattended.  Set your device to automatically lock out after 5 minutes.
  5. Use multi-factor authentication.  This will add an extra layer of protection on your accounts.  Make sure to enable this feature on your email, social media, Amazon and banking/financial online accounts; any site that it is available!  Although it is an extra step, it is a feature that is considered the best way to save your account from being hacked.
  6. Don’t use public Wi-Fi.  Use secured networks when browsing sensitive websites or using banking information for shopping.
  7. Monitor your accounts.  Be on the lookout for any suspicious activity.  Dark Web ID is a great way to monitor if your credentials have been compromised and sold on the dark web.  Alerts by Dark Web ID may just give you the time needed to change your credentials, so your information does not get in the hands of criminals.
  8. Update any software.  Outdated software can leave your device vulnerable to ransomware.  Be sure to turn on automatic system updates. 
  9. Protect your PII.  Personal identifiable information (PII), such as your name, address, phone number, date of birth, or SSN, should only be divulged when necessary and to trusted sources.  This applies to both phone and online requests that you did not initiate. 
  10. Watch out for scams and phishing emails.  If the email address looks odd, the wording seems grammatically incorrect, or it is not someone you know, it is likely a phishing email.  Hover over the email address to see the entire address.  Most of the time the email address is completely different than the sender and you will know that it is a phishing email.  Delete it!

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