From phishing to phone scams, it seems like we’re constantly defending ourselves from some online threat. As the influence of technology grows in both our work and home lives, we can prepare for cyber threats by taking a few extra safety steps.
One of the most common ways cybercriminals target people is through email. Although 70% of people know to be careful when clicking on hyperlinks, many still click on questionable information. And mobile devices like tablets and cell phones give criminals more ways to reach you.
But you can fight back. Here are 6 simple steps to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime:
1. Think before you click. Don’t be tricked into clicking on links or attachments. One of the most common ways cybercriminals target people is through email.
2. Protect your devices. If you travel for work, use the shortcut CTRL+ALT+DEL to quickly lock your computer if you have to leave it unattended (although you should never leave it unattended in a public place). Secure mobile devices on the go by using strong passwords and biometrics, checking to make sure your public WiFi is protected, and turning off Bluetooth when not in use. More than 60% of fraud originates from mobile devices and 1 in 36 mobile devices have high risk apps installed. Lifestyle apps that focus on activities and interests, such as shopping, health, fitness and travel are the main target.
3. Beware of suspicious activity. Phishing attacks are the most common way to breach cybersecurity defenses, so it’s critical to stay alert for suspicious or fraudulent emails. A good rule of thumb is to delete emails in your inbox from people or organizations you don’t know.
4. Passwords are important. Use different passwords for different websites and separate your work and personal passwords. Make sure your office password doesn’t match your Instagram account and keep financial passwords completely unique. And remember, passwords should be private, so don’t write them on sticky notes or share them with others. And for goodness’ sake, never use “password” as your password. Create a unique password you’ll remember, using special characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase characters, or use a passphrase.
5. Be careful where you go and what you share. Consider doing online business only with retailers you trust and have shopped with before and have a secure way of collecting your bank information. Cybercriminals are really good at stringing together information gathered on social media, so be mindful of what you share and steer clear of vacation details and current location.
6. Encrypt sensitive data. The whole purpose of data encryption is to protect digital information stored on a computer or shared via other devices, networks or email. Learn how to encrypt emails on various devices and providers.
Even the most cautious can fall into the clutches of cybercriminals, so what are you supposed to do if your identity is stolen? First, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission and contact your local police department. Next, place fraud alerts on credit reports and freeze your credit. Find more tips here.