Nearly 50 percent of companies in the United States report having experienced a data breach, according to the 2021 Thales Data Threat Report. This affects the typical online user since a lot of consumer data is stored by businesses. Unfortunately, there are also ways nefarious cybercriminals and hackers attempt to access personal and professional data, leading to such unpleasant things as identity theft and compromised bank or credit card accounts. Remember, it’s not your internet service provider’s fault if you got scammed and hacked on the internet. HughesNet internet and other big internet providers always share awareness and tips on avoiding getting scammed and hacked through emails, social media, announcements, and texts.
Since October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it’s a perfect time to see if there may be some ways you can be more cyber smart as you click, tap, stream, and browse. So here are five ways to boost your cyber smarts and overall online safety and security in 2021.
Keep Cyber Safety Basics in Mind
A good place to start with being more cyber smart is to keep the basics in mind. It would be best if you did these things as a habit to reduce your risk of having your personal information accessed online. This “cyber hygiene” list includes:
- Using strong passwords*
- Setting up multi-factor authentication for your various online-accessible accounts
- Updating software regularly on your various devices
*Consider using a password manager to keep track of your passwords in a more organized and convenient way.
Report Suspicious Phishing Activities
Phishing refers to deceptive efforts made to acquire your personal information online. Such measures may involve emails that appear to be from reputable companies or other sources usually considered trustworthy. If you spot signs of phishing activity, report these attempts to authorities. It can also be helpful to alert your internet or email, internet provider. Signs of phishing to look out for include:
- Unexpected email, text, or chat messages
- Messages from reputable companies with generic greetings like “hello” instead of using at least your first name
- Messages with a sense of urgency – e.g., “your phone will be locked if you don’t take action now.”
- Suspicious attachments or links
Avoid taking any action based solely on what you see in a message that suddenly comes to you. If it appears to be from a reputable company you have an account with, sign in to your account online or contact the company directly to see if there’s a problem. Also, phishing attempts can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission via the FTC fraud report page on the FTC website.
Use Trusted Security Software – and Update It
Only use software or security suites from trusted companies for your various internet-linked devices. Also, look for security packages with high satisfaction ratings from current users and ones that protect your devices from a broad range of threats, including adware, malware, spyware, and other standard security threats. After you have trusted software installed on all your devices, don’t forget to update it. Updates are important because they typically fix any possible loopholes cyber thieves might exploit. Set up automatic software updates, so you don’t forget when it’s possible to do so.
Consider Using a VPN
The purpose of a virtual private network, or VPN, is to make it difficult for cybercriminals or dubious online players to access your personal information when you’re connected online. A VPN can be especially beneficial if you regularly use public Wi-Fi since a VPN also encrypts your data.
Pay Attention to Scam Alerts
It’s a good idea to be aware of common cyber-related scams. But don’t stop there. It’s just as important to pay attention to news reports or alerts of newer online scams making the rounds, so you’re not caught off guard. An FTC scam alerts page is a good resource to use to get a better idea of what to watch for when using any internet-connected device.
In addition to what’s already been mentioned, make cybersecurity a priority in your life by avoiding using public Wi-Fi whenever possible, regularly backing up your devices, only shopping online from trusted, secure sites, and being mindful of security and privacy when posting online. Lastly, make a list of everything you use that’s internet-connected, especially if you have things like “smart” TVs and thermostats, Wi-Fi-connected baby monitors, and other smart devices.