Be CyberSmart: 5 Tips to Protect Your Personal Information
- Fraud Watch
- Frontwave Credit Union
Over the years, our lives have come to revolve around technology and the online world more and more. Unless you shut down your devices, you are always online and threats to your security are constant.
In 2021 alone, nearly 850,000 complaints related to online crimes were logged with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, with reported losses nearing $7 billion. California was hit particularly hard, ranking number 1 in the country with $1.2 billion in losses. We have a lot of security tools in place to keep your accounts secure here at Frontwave. But cybercriminals know technology can’t do it all. And while it might be nice to think something like cybercrime simply couldn’t happen to you, the reality is if you aren’t taking steps to safeguard your personal information, it could fall into the wrong hands, costing you your personal information, your identity, or your money.
To stay safe in cyberspace and reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a scam, follow these five easy tips:
1. Use Strong Passwords
Weak or stolen passwords are responsible for 80% of data breaches today. So maintaining a strong password is critical to avoid becoming a victim of online crime. First, be sure you’re not using one of these 20 easily compromised passwords hackers can figure out in no time.
Next, avoid using your name, birthday, pet’s name or other personal information as a password. Hackers are clever and if they do a little digging (see #5 of this list below), this type of information often isn’t very difficult to find.
If you’re avoiding these common pitfalls you’re on the right track, but did you know even using a strong password on multiple sites could compromise your security? That’s right. If a cybercriminal were able to identify one of your passwords, chances are high they will take this opportunity to use that newfound information to try to gain access to other accounts. That’s why you should have a unique password for every login. Concerned about keeping track of a laundry list of unique passwords comprised of made-up words, special characters and numbers? Consider using a password management tool to keep all of your password information safe and secure.
2. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
While a strong password can certainly lower your chances of being hacked, multi-factor authentication (MFA) is simple to enable and provides one of the most effective ways to protect your information. MFA adds one more hurdle for cybercriminals to climb by requesting an additional piece of information beyond your username and password to prove you’re really you. Just as a would-be criminal couldn’t withdraw money from your ATM account if they swiped your debit card without also knowing your PIN, cybercriminals can’t hack your account without multiple pieces of information.
MFAs can take many forms but most commonly are temporary, randomly generated codes sent to your cell phone or email, secure tokens created by an authenticator app, or biometric verification tools that use your fingerprint or facial recognition. By combining something you know (your password) with something only you have access to (temporary code or fingerprint), you’re essentially protecting your password with another password.
3. Keep Software and Devices Updated
One of the easiest ways you can protect your personal information is by enabling automatic updates to keep your software up to date. Cyber criminals are constantly changing their tactics and looking for new ways to prey on individuals and companies. New software and operating systems are regularly released not just to give you the latest features and functionality, but also to protect you from known vulnerabilities.
However, before you can receive the latest and greatest in terms of software, you first need to ensure you have a relatively new device. If your cell phone, tablet or computer is no longer receiving notifications regarding software updates, it’s reached what’s called the “end of support” and signals it’s time for an upgrade. By protecting your devices, you’re also protecting your digital presence and the information you store online.
4. Look Out for Phishing Scams
Phishing attacks have been the most prominent threat since 2020 and represented over a third of cybercrime in 2021. While phishing scams can come in many forms, they share some common red flags which you can learn and use to outsmart even the most sophisticated online con artists.
Phishing scams leverage fake emails, social media posts, voicemails, text messages and even websites that masquerade as legitimate requests from individuals you know or organizations you do business with. Before you download an attachment or click a link, take a step back and look out for these sometimes subtle but often dead giveaways of phishing scams:
- There’s a strong sense of urgency or threatening language. Often, scammers are trying to scare you to act now with threats of disabling your account or other serious consequences before you pause to think too critically about the request.
- The sender is asking for login credentials, one-time passcodes, or personal or financial details. Keep in mind, legitimate companies will never ask you for this information.
- The text or email contains poor grammar or spelling errors (or both).
- There are offers of prizes or cash winnings. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- The sender email address looks suspicious, uses a generic domain such as gmail.com, or does not match the company it is supposed to be from.
- A “Click here” link directs to a site that is a complete mismatch for the company. Before you click the link, hover over it to see the full URL.
- A link in the email directs you to a form to “verify your information.” While the form and webpage may look correct, be cautious. This could be a scam. If you’re ever in doubt, pick up the phone and call the company directly to confirm the request is legitimate.
5. Beware of What You Share On Social Media
While social media is a great way to stay connected with friends and family, it can also be a gold mine for hackers to learn more about you. Even if you are only sharing information with established contacts, the information you share may still be accessible to others, including cybercriminals. These hackers get to know you by uncovering personal details like your birthday, pet’s name, where you went to high school or college, your hometown, places you frequent, people you tag in photos, companies you work for, or clients and coworkers you collaborate with. With these details they can develop a highly-targeted, sophisticated and convincing phishing scam or attempt to guess your password to hack into your account.
Remember, everything you add to your security toolbox creates another layer of protection.
Hackers are looking for easy targets and if you follow the tips above, the odds of you becoming a victim goes down significantly. For more tips on keeping your Frontwave accounts secure, visit our Security Information page.