We’ve certainly heard some hacking horror stories over the last few years, haven’t we? In 2014, more than one billion personal records were accessed illegally. From CVS and Ashley Madison to the IRS and Anthem, it seems like no one is safe. Businesses can protect themselves by hiring IT security consultants and purchasing cyber liability insurance, but what can individuals do? As it turns out, there are several ways to stay safe online. I’ll discuss the most useful tips in a two-part series here on the blog.
Here we go!
Create strong passwords
You’ve heard most of this advice before... Don’t use the same password for all of your logins. Don’t use common words or names. Don’t use the same password(s) for decades.
Follow these rules to be sure you’re creating a strong password:
- Use 12 characters minimum.
- Include capital letters, lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols where permitted.
- Avoid using dictionary words or a series of dictionary words.
- Avoid using your name, your kid’s name, your pet’s name, your street name, etc.
- Don’t rely on obvious substitutions (for example, h0use instead of house).
Consider creating a sentence to remember, and then use the first letter of each word as your password. Example sentence: The first car I ever owned was a 1999 Honda Accord. I sold it for $1000 in 2004. So, the password would be: TfcIeowa1HA.Isif$i2. Twenty characters. Includes upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Does not include dictionary words, personal names, or obvious substitutions.
If you think you can remember a tough password without using the method above, you could use a password generator tool.
Be careful about what information you share via email
Email is a great way to communicate for both business and personal use, but you should be careful what kind of information you share via email. Even if you have good security software on your computer, you shouldn’t assume that the recipient of your email message does, too. Never communicate your social security number, bank account or credit card numbers, or protected health information through email.
Beware of phishing scams, too. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and fake websites, posing as legitimate businesses, to lure users into divulging personal or login information via email or a website. If you receive a suspicious email requesting personal information or asking you to log in to an account, you can usually discover whether the site is legitimate by opening a new browser window and visiting the site directly or via Google search. Also, look for clues in the email. Does the domain name in the sender’s email address match the legitimate company website? Are there spelling and punctuation errors in the email? If all else fails, call the company to confirm whether they sent you the email in question.
When shopping online, look for “https”
If you are shopping or making a payment online, always check the URL in your browser window to be sure the payment page is secure. Look for an ‘s’ after ‘http’ in the beginning of the URL. This indicates that the site is using a secure server and your payment information is safe. You can also look for a tiny padlock symbol at the bottom of the checkout screen or language on the site that indicates that the pages are secure with a security technology vendor.
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