October is Cyber Security Awareness Month!
In the last decade, more than ever before, people became aware of the fact that their identities could be stolen- and very hard to get back. Credit cards, Social Security numbers, people’s lives could be entirely taken over by other people- not just master thieves- it was not a very hard feat to accomplish. Fast forward to the current decade, the first decade since the universal explosion of social media, and people are spending a very significant portion of their lives online. Yet, many people are still not aware of just how easy it is to steal a person’s cyber identity, or really, any part of their identity. Living in an online world has opened a whole new treasure trove for hackers and people with entirely too much time on their hands. Keep reading for some pointers on what you can do to stay safe online- because it’s not just your profile picture that people want to steal.
Let’s start with email- something pretty much everyone uses. It is important to only open emails from senders who you know. Even just opening an email could wreak havoc on your computer and make you vulnerable to a variety of attacks. If you decide to open emails from unknown senders, be sure to look out for spelling and grammatical errors. This is especially important if these emails claim to be any type of offer/promotion or attempt to collect information for any reason. If an email solicits you for personal or financial information- do not respond! See which company it is, and even if it is a company you are attached to in some way, call them directly to confirm the validity of any attempt for information from you. Be wary of emails that demand you take immediate action over an “urgent matter”- especially ones that threaten to close or suspend an account- call this company directly. Make sure you Google this company to cross reference phone numbers. It is extra time out of your day, but it is much more time consuming to try and take back your identity and prove you were the victim of cyber fraud. Make sure you look at the entire URL- it may look similar, but many scammers will make small changes that most people do not think to look for. It could be something as simple as changing a “.com” to a “.net”- have a diligent eye for these types of discrepancies.
Many people live under the false assumption that social media is a safe place for information- when in fact, quite the opposite is true. Do not accept friend requests from people that you don’t know- or anyone that looks very suspicious. These could include people who do not use legitimate sounding names, or people who have very few friends and no easily identifiable connections with said friends. Do not respond to messages that include some sort of offer, survey, etc. Remember, just like you can spread the flu virus in the “real world”, when you make yourself susceptible to online attacks/viruses you endanger your friends and family who also share an online connection with you!
Parents, it is especially important that you safeguard your children’s online persona, as well as your own. ConnectSafely.org has a free online booklet that answers many questions that parents have, as well many tips and ideas for how to keep your children safe online. It is so very important to remember how much of a target children and teens are by cyber thieves, because they completely clean credit and no marks on their records.
Make sure you pick unique passwords, using a variety of characters, including numbers, symbols, and upper and lowercase letters. Of course, you don’t want to make it so difficult or complicated that you constantly forget your password. It is also highly recommended to regularly change passwords, at least a couple of times per year. This will help to further thwart people wanting to hack into your accounts.
Although October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, it is important to safeguard your identity year round- much of it comes down to common sense and a little forward thought. If you still have questions, get in contact with the friendly technicians at your local uBreakiFix, they can help guide you to building a more secure online identity.