Although you can’t stop criminals from attempting a cyber attack, you can take several steps to reduce your risk of having your personal information stolen, misused or deleted. Start by using strong passwords, avoiding malware and viruses, and protecting yourself against scams and security breaches.
- Do not use the same password for multiple accounts, especially important accounts such as online banking or an online store with your credit card on file.
- Passwords should not be a word found in the dictionary or a combination easily guessed by a friend; be creative and mix up letters, numbers and symbols to make a strong password.
- Passwords should be periodically changed, especially in the wake of the Heartbleed bug that left much encrypted information vulnerable to exploitation.
- Don’t click on links or download attachments in unsolicited emails.
- Don’t download anything from sites you don’t trust.
- Don’t enter personal information on a website if you clicked on a link; instead, type the URL into the address bar to make sure you go to the site you want.
- Scan all external devices, such as USB flash drives, for viruses and malicious software (malware) before using.
- Install antivirus security software.
Scams and other security breaches
- Never email personal information on an unsecured Wi-Fi network; the network can be hacked and the information accessed by unauthorized users.
- Don’t disclose private information unless necessary, and always verify the source if asked to input sensitive information into a website or email.
- Before entering credit card numbers or other payment information when shopping online, double-check that you’re on the website you think you are and check the URL for “https,” which is a general indication that the page is encrypted for your security. Some browsers also display a “lock” icon to indicate that a website is secure.
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