We all know the internet can be dangerous and scary. Experts warn of a triple threat these days. First, scammers are taking advantage of COVID-19 uncertainty, from offering phony cures and tests to promises of financial assistance. Second, with more people working from home due to social distancing, there may be fewer office-based security measures in place. Third, the FBI warns that increased use of mobile banking offers more chances for cybercrime. So, here are four cybersecurity tips to keep you safe:
Use strong passwords
And change them regularly – many sites and apps make that easy to do by clicking on the “forgot your password” link. The best passwords are at least eight characters and include different types of characters – try using a memorable verse from your favorite song and adding a few numbers and special characters ($!_&), or even a space. If you are like most people, remembering all your passwords is a challenge.
Choose a security option based on the value of what you’re protecting. The options you use to secure your bank and retirement account passwords might be different than how you store your social media passwords.
Password apps keep them in one place and may be a great option for some passwords, but you can be in big trouble if you forget the password that lets you into that app. Keeping passwords on paper or in a notebook might be more secure than using the same password for everything, depending on how secure and hidden that paper is from other people at the office or kids at home.
Install software updates
Your apps and operating systems will periodically send updates. Install them – they often include protections against the latest security threats. But remember, those updates come from the apps and not from emails or social media notices. An email containing an update may be a scam – instead of clicking on the link, go to the app’s website to see if there really are updates available.
Use two-factor authentication
That phrase is just a fancy word for a technique that adds an extra layer of security in addition to a password. Banks increasingly use this system – when you try to connect with them, the bank may text a code number to your phone that you type in to complete the sign-in process for your account.
Keep in mind that answering a security question is similar to having a password – both are something you know. Answering a security question won’t provide the same level of additional security as that of a second factor. A second factor will be something you have, like your phone to receive a passcode, or something you are, like a biometric fingerprint, in addition to something you know, like a password or security question.
Think before you click
Be wary of any offer or link that comes through the internet, whether by email or social media, or even a phone call instructing you to get online. Don’t click on a link unless you know for certain what it is. Ideally, you should be expecting to receive the link. Even emails from friends should be suspect – hackers can impersonate someone you know to send a link or an attachment, and either can result in you downloading malware that can take control of your computer in ways you may not even be able to detect.
If you have any doubt, whether it’s a link to a software update or an attachment to a funny cat video, give the sender a phone call to find out if they really sent it or if it’s a scam.