During these unprecedented times, we are all forced to follow CDC guidelines. This means most of us have adopted social distancing and online worship as a part of our everyday lives. When doing so, now more than ever, it is important to implement safe online practices to prevent ourselves from those who prey on the vulnerable. Your Communications and Technology Committee has compiled a quick list of the top 10 things you can do to keep you and your information safe while using the internet.
10. Protect your Passwords
Using the same password for multiple sites only makes it easier for attackers to compromise your sensitive information. Instead, keep track of your different passwords with a handwritten list that you keep in a safe place or come up with your own algorithm for creating unique passwords that only you would know. It is also recommended that you change your passwords every 90 days. You need to make a new password every time you sign up for an account in most websites. When you do, make sure that your passwords are airtight (especially for more sensitive accounts like social media or banking). When making a strong password, don’t use the obvious combination of (username) + (year of birth/current year) or 1234, 1111, 0000, etc.
Remember to make your password longer (close to the maximum length allowed) and be more creative by using capitalized letters, numbers, and symbols (if allowed). This makes it harder for hackers to guess your password. Additionally, you can use a password manager app (from a trusted source) so you don’t have to keep your various passwords on a piece of paper that could easily get lost or stolen.
Also, remember to change your password immediately after a breach.
9. Avoid public or free Wi-Fi
Attackers often use wireless sniffers to steal users’ information as it is sent over unprotected networks. The best way to protect yourself from this is to avoid using these networks altogether.
8. Keep your browser software up-to-date
New patches are often released to fix existing vulnerabilities in browser software, so having the most up-to-date versions is critical.
7. How and Why to Delete Unknown Emails
Most internet users have an email account with emails from unknown senders. Hackers often use email as a way to get to your personal information. This process is known as phishing. Hackers will send an email using an address that seems reputable and will warn you that there is something wrong with an account, such as your bank account. The email will urge you to follow a link and verify your information. This tactic is a way for hackers to get your information for their own purposes. They will often go to great measures to make their emails seem real, such as finding out where you bank, where you work, or where you went to college. These sorts of claims made in an email are unreliable though, as a legitimate company would never address those sorts of issues in an email. Although many internet users still fall prey to phishing scams, there are some easy measures you can take to avoid them. As internet users get wiser to scams, hackers are having to come up new techniques. By staying informed, you can stay a step ahead and know what to look out for in your email. Always use caution and common sense before you click on a link in your email. Verify that you know where the email came from and that it is leading you to a legitimate site by reading your email in plain-text, which will show where the link leads. If you receive an email from someone you do not know, it is safest to delete it.
6. Keep Personal Information Professional and Limited
Potential employers or customers don’t need to know your personal relationship status or your home address. They do need to know about your expertise and professional background, and how to get in touch with you. You wouldn’t hand purely personal information out to strangers individually—don’t hand it out to millions of people online.
5. Practice Safe Browsing
You wouldn’t choose to walk through a dangerous neighborhood—don’t visit dangerous neighborhoods online. Cybercriminals use lurid content as bait. They know people are sometimes tempted by dubious content and may let their guard down when searching for it. The Internet’s demimonde is filled with hard-to-see pitfalls, where one careless click could expose personal data or infect your device with malware. By resisting the urge, you don’t even give the hackers a chance.
4. Be Careful What You Download
A top goal of cybercriminals is to trick you into downloading malware—programs or apps that carry malware or try to steal information. This malware can be disguised as an app: anything from a popular game to something that checks traffic or the weather. As PCWorld advises, don’t download apps that look suspicious or come from a site you don’t trust.
3. Recognize Phishing Scams
Scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. They may try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful.
Phishing emails and text messages may look like they’re from a company you know or trust. They may look like they’re from a bank, a credit card company, a social networking site, an online payment website or app, or an online store.
Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. They may
- say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts
- claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information
- say you must confirm some personal information
- include a fake invoice
- want you to click on a link to make a payment
- say you’re eligible to register for a government refund
- offer a coupon for free stuff
2. Talk to your Kids
When your kids begin socializing online, you may want to talk to them about certain risks:
- Inappropriate conduct: The online world can feel anonymous. Kids sometimes forget that they are still accountable for their actions.
- Inappropriate contact: Some people online have bad intentions, including bullies, predators, hackers, and scammers.
- Inappropriate content: You may be concerned that your kids could find pornography, violence, or hate speech online.
You can reduce these risks by talking to your kids about how they communicate – online and off – and encouraging them to engage in conduct they can be proud of.
Use two-factor authentication
Most secure sites will have two-factor authentication. This is to safeguard you against other people trying to impersonate you.
If they see that you’re trying to log into your online banking account on some computer in China (when you’ve never even been out of your state), they’re going to sound the alarms and ask you (through your phone or tablet) if you’ve just tried to log into your account on that computer.
If the hacker doesn’t also have access to your phone or email, he’s going to be locked out of your account.
Two-factor authentication also helps if someone tries to hack your account or manually guess your password (or if you just forgot your password). You can use the second authorization to reset your password and retake your account.