Cybercrimes are increasing massively each year. In fact, according to Cybercrime Magazine, cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.
The best way to protect yourself from falling prey to cybercrimes is by being aware of common tactics and keeping your systems and devices secure. In honor of Cybersecurity Month, let’s take a closer look at this essential toolset and how to best harness it for your protection.
What is cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the protection of online devices, networks, data and electronic systems from attacks by hackers, scammers and cybercriminals.
There are several major categories of cybersecurity:
- Network security is the securing of a computer network from intruders who commit crimes by targeted attack or malware.
- Application security focuses on protecting software and devices from threats.
- Information security protects the integrity and privacy of data.
- Operational security includes handling and protecting data assets.
- Cloud security refers to creating secure cloud applications for companies that use cloud service providers, like Google, AWS, etc.
- Identity management and data security protects processes that enable authorization and authentication of legitimate individuals to an organization’s systems.
- Mobile security protects data stored on mobile devices from threats.
Methods of cybercrimes
All forms of cybercrimes threaten cybersecurity in some way. Here are some of the methods used to wage attacks:
- Malware-includes ransomware, spyware and viruses. These can install harmful software, block access to systems or provide scammers with access to data.
- Trojans-trick users into thinking they’re opening a harmless file, but they’re really installing a backdoor that provides access to cybercriminals.
- Botnets-conducted via remotely controlled malware-infected devices and usually employed as a large-scale attack.
- Adware-involves a potentially unwanted program installed without the user’s permission, which automatically generates unwanted online advertisements.
- Phishing-employed by email, text, or social media message, it tricks the target into sharing sensitive information.
How can I protect myself against cyberattacks?
Fortunately, there are many ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks:
- Use banking activity alerts.
- Update your software and operating systems often.
- Use anti-virus software.
- Use strong, unique passwords across all your online accounts.
- Never open email attachments or click on links from unknown senders.
- Avoid using unsecured public WiFi.
Through awareness and use of cybersecurity tools, you can keep your devices and personal information secure.
Stay up to date on current scams and learn how to report fraud by visiting https://consumer.ftc.gov/.
With potential threats to cyber security today, it’s a good time to revisit your passwords. Even if you think you’re following the latest password guidelines, you could still be at risk of a data breach. Ask yourself these four questions about your passwords and be prepared to make any necessary changes to secure your information.
1. Are any of my accounts using the same password?
If you answered ‘yes,’ then it’s time for a change! If a hacker gets your password for one account, then they’ll have access to your other accounts. It may seem like a hassle, but it’s nothing compared to fighting identity theft or trying to retrieve stolen money!
2. Are my passwords at least 12 characters long?
12 characters may seem like a lot, but the longer the password the stronger it is. Think up a passphrase of random words that you can easily remember – but avoid popular ones. Also make sure to mix up your characters with lowercase and uppercase letters and symbols. If one of your accounts doesn’t allow for long passwords, mix up the characters even more to improve its security.
3. Are my passwords easily accessible?
This may seem like a silly question, but how and where you keep your passwords can determine whether you get hacked. For example, if you save a Word document to your desktop titled “passwords,” you’re assuming that only you have access to your desktop. You’re not considering a potential hacker gaining remote access to your computer, or someone at your work opening the document when you step away for a minute.
4. Does anyone know my passwords?
Yes, we mean anyone! The best way to keep your information secure is to keep your passwords private. Obviously, your partner or child isn’t going to intentionally misuse one of your passwords, but if they’re not careful it could end up in the wrong hands.
Stay up to date on password guidelines and other security tips by signing up for FTC Consumer Alerts at consumer.ftc.gov.
Using a compromised ATM can mean risking identity theft and/or having cash stolen. With this simple machine, all it takes is a few short minutes for a victim’s life to meet disaster.
Here are tips to help you keep your ATM transactions secure.
1. Keep your PIN private. Don’t share it with anyone and don’t write it down. It’s also a good idea to choose a unique PIN for all your accounts and to change it once a year.
2. Check the ATM for a card skimmer. A skimmer fits right over the card slot or keypad to read card information before passing it onto the criminal. Look for a skimmer by checking to see if the card slot feels loose, is colored differently or if the keypad is too thick or looks newer than the ATM.
3. Bring a buddy. A lone target is always more vulnerable. If possible, and especially if you’re using an ATM late at night, bring a friend along.
4. Be aware of your surroundings. As you use the machine, look for anything suspicious, like characters lurking nearby or dark cars parked in the area for far too long.
5. Use your body as a shield. Stand close to the machine to block it from view and cover the keypad with your hand while you input your PIN.
6. Have your debit card ready for use. Those precious few moments of searching for your card can give a criminal the time they need to make their move.
7. Put away all cash after your transaction. Never count cash in public; you can check that you’ve received the right amount when you’re safely in your car.
8. Lock all doors and roll up passenger windows when using a drive-thru ATM. If you’ll be remaining in your vehicle to complete your transaction, keep it as secure as possible.
9. Be sure to take your receipt. Don’t leave any evidence of your transaction.
If something or someone looks suspicious, cancel your transaction, grab your card, and leave the area as soon as you can.
A compromised computer can put you at risk for money loss, phishing scams or even complete identity theft. Read on for some steps you can take to keep yourself safe online.
Avoid fake sites
If you’re browsing a site you don’t usually use, ask yourself these questions to make sure it’s safe:
- Does your browser warn you against visiting the site? Your browser’s warnings are based on actual data and user reports.
- Is the web text riddled with grammar mistakes and typos? If a site looks like it was written by a second-grader, leave.
- Is the site secure? Only visit sites with an “https” and not just an “http” in the address bar.
- Does the digital footprint check out? Google the company’s name to see what’s being said about them.
- Is there a legitimate “Contact us” section? There should be an authentic physical address and phone number for the business.
- Is there an excessive number of ads? If a website is practically covered in ads, it’s likely a fake.
- Check the shipping and return policies. If you can’t find this information, the site is probably bogus.
- Is the URL authentic? When redirected to another site, check the new URL to see if it matches the original company.
- Does something seem too good to be true? If so, it probably is, and caution is warranted!
- Is the site prompting you to download something? Make sure you verify the site before performing any download.
- Is there an alternative site that you’ve used before and trust? If so, use that site instead.
Practice password safety
It’s the key to your online life — keep it safe! Here’s how:
- Change your password every 30-40 days.
- Never double passwords. Use a unique code for each site and service you use.
- Use strong passwords. Choose passwords that include a mixture of capitalization use, numbers, letters and symbols.
- Use a random passphrase instead of a password. Passphrases are longer and harder to guess. Switch out certain letters with symbols and numbers to make it even more secure. The longer the password the better.
Update your browser
Perhaps the most important step of internet safety is keeping your browser updated. With just one click, you’ll increase your browser’s security and improve your computer by making it faster and compatible with more websites.
Above all else, an updated browser will provide better security. Internet companies are constantly looking for ways to protect you and keep you safer; take full advantage of their efforts by always using the latest version.
An updated browser offers stronger protection against the most recent scams, phishing attacks, viruses, Trojans, and more. Newer browsers have also patched up security vulnerabilities that may be present in your older browser. Updating your browser is super-easy and super-quick. Late model computers will update automatically as soon as new iterations are released to the public. If your computer is a little older, you can choose the “auto-update” feature available on some browsers for the same results. Otherwise, you can update your browser manually by following the instructions on your browser. These are typically easy to follow and take just a few clicks.