8 Things NOT to Do to Avoid Becoming a Cybercrime Statistic
Between lengthening shadows, scary movies, and ghosts and goblins knocking on your door, October is a spooky month. Being the victim of a cyber security breach is frightening, too — and there’s no fun-size Kit Kat bar to make things better.
To help encourage safe online practices, the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month in 2004.
Cybercrime is a Global Concern
Cybercrime might not strike the same terror in hearts as other high-profile criminal activities, but it can still leave victims traumatized. You’re much more likely to fall prey to a cyber security scam than you are to find yourself dodging a chainsaw-wielding madman in Texas. About 594 million people across the globe are affected by cybercrime every year. Contrast that with Jason Voorhees, whose victim count over a dozen Friday the 13th films is a paltry 157.
The real world is nothing like Hollywood movies. Your odds of being terrorized by a child’s doll on a rampage are slim to none but falling victim to cybercrime is a very real possibility — unless you’re diligent. Sometimes, the steps you don’t take are every bit as important as those you do.
A “To-Don’t” List
Cyber criminals are quite innovative in how they obtain personal information and can fool even the most cautious. The following cyber security tips will help protect you from becoming a victim.
- DON’T click on links from unknown sources. Cyber attackers can lure you into clicking on links that appear enticing. Resist the urge; sensationalized headlines are called “clickbait” for a reason: one click of your mouse leaves you susceptible to malware — malicious files used to steal data and damage your device or network. By the time you’re aware of it, the damage will likely already be done.
- DON’T reuse passwords over multiple accounts. Sure, it’s tempting to use the same password across different sites. Doing so is quick and convenient. And besides, who can remember two dozen or more different passwords? Cyber criminals reap the rewards of your complacency. No, you don’t need a photographic memory; many people use a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane instead.
- DON’T skip two-factor authentication. Even the strongest password doesn’t guarantee a hacker won’t still find their way in. Two-factor authentication, which requires a mobile phone number or email address, makes it much harder for them to succeed. You’ll have to verify your account whenever you log in from a new device. It’s an extra step, sure … but one that may save you a lot of hassle later.
- DON’T answer truthfully when setting up security questions. As illogical as this sounds, giving false answers to security questions is a shrewd way to keep one step ahead of cyber bad guys. Personal details, like your mother’s maiden name or city of birth, are easy for hackers to obtain. Make up your answers instead. If you’re worried about remembering them, use a password manager or come up with an answer you won’t forget (name of a favorite celebrity or a dream vacation destination, for instance).
- DON’T give away confidential information over the phone. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but not when it’s a scammer pretending to be somebody else. Cyber tricksters often turn to the telephone to gain access to confidential data. Unless you have initiated the call yourself, don’t fall for this! When in doubt, hang up and call the company back directly – at a published number – to verify they were trying to contact you. Most legitimate businesses will never ask for this type of information over the phone.
- DON’T make sensitive transactions over nonsecure websites. Making an online purchase or financial transaction from a non-encrypted site is like withdrawing cash from an ATM without shielding your PIN number from prying eyes. Any sensitive transaction should be limited to a secure website; make sure the URL at the top of the web browser begins with “https” instead of “http” and includes a padlock icon.
- DON’T overshare online either. Social media sites and public forums can feel like a community, but don’t let your guard down. You wouldn’t give a stranger off the street your home address and you should be equally vigilant online. Avoid sharing sensitive information like your address, phone number, names of family members, passwords, birth dates, credit and debit card numbers, and more. Be wary when posting photos, too: those taken on smartphones and other GPS-enabled devices contain geotags that reveal your location. Disable this setting before uploading photos to be on the safe side.
- DON’T use outdated software. It’s always tempting to cut back on spending, but there are some products and services worth a monthly (or annual) fee. Cut back on those lattes if you must, but make sure antivirus programs and other security software is current. This will offer protection against the most recent security threats, which are always evolving. Also, don’t forget to update your operating system when prompted.
Golden West Offers Help
For added peace of mind, consider protecting your computer with VIPRE Advanced Security software from Golden West. The software is included when customers bundle internet with another Golden West service, and it can be installed on up to three devices. The software can also be purchased for an additional small fee added to your monthly bill.
Consider also browsing our library on The Exchange for additional information on strengthening your online security, spotting phishing scams, and more.
Happy (and safe) browsing!
Golden West does not endorse any of these products or services.
Sources: Some information for this article was provided by online articles from cisecurity.org, komando.com, itsupportla.com, and kaspersky.com