Cyber Security — Thoughts in Hindsight

June 28, 2019

Imagine your entire world being turned upside down. You thought it wouldn’t happen to you. But now your accounts have been hacked and you are exposed. For many, cyber security is an afterthought until it happens personally. Yet taking simple steps can greatly improve your chances of avoiding data exposure. Below are 10 habits that a real-life victim wishes they had implemented prior to having their accounts hacked.

  1. Don’t Click the Link: Email phishing is the most widely used strategy that cybercriminals use to obtain account credentials. Thousands of emails impersonate Bank of America requesting a password reset or Netflix requesting payment information to be updated. If you receive an email requesting sensitive data, go directly to the company’s website rather than clicking the email. Learn how to spot fake emails, such as spoofing, unsafe URL’s etc.
  2. Use Two-Factor Authentication: Whenever possible, turn on two factor authentication for your online accounts. This provides another layer of protection when logging into accounts. If your current personal email provider doesn’t offer two factor authentication, consider moving to one that does.
  3. Use Unique and Complex Passwords: Do not reuse passwords on multiple accounts. If a hacker obtains one set of credentials, a common strategy is to attempt the same credentials on other accounts. Regularly update your high-priority account passwords to a unique and complex format.
  4. Ignore Robo-Callers: If you receive a robo-call, you can certainly ask who they are but do not state who you are. Certain institutions will use voice recognition to verify identity. Knowing this, some hackers record robo-calls and design them to capture certain key phrases to bypass this verification.
  5. Track Your Credit: Look into getting a credit monitoring service. These tools show if an account has been opened in your name and will track your credit. To take it one step further, consider contacting the three credit agencies to place a freeze on your credit report. This freeze will not allow anyone to access your credit file, and a PIN will be required to lift the freeze.
  6. Enable Account Alerts: If your bank allows you to enable account alerts, make sure to enable them. Ensure the alerts are going to the correct phone, email or address. Since cell phones are always on us, text alerts are a great way to stay current on account changes or issues. Any updates sent via mail should be reviewed.
  7. Keep it Updated: Ensure all of your existing account information is up to date in case you’re alerted of suspicious activity. If you have lived in the same house for a long period of time and moved, ensure your address on all accounts are changed. The same goes for phone numbers and email addresses.
  8. Consider a Password Vault: Adopt a safe and consistent method of recording all the usernames and passwords for online accounts. If each account has a unique complex password, keeping track of all your credentials will quickly become overwhelming. Finding a manageable solution to this problem is essential. Find a reputable and secure password vault that works for your situation.
  9. Protect Your Mobile Device: Always have a passcode on your phone. If your phone is lost, you are potentially providing all your apps to someone with bad intentions. Make sure the phone location feature is enabled and be aware of how to view this location from another device. This will allow you to track down the location of your phone and freeze or erase the phone if need be.
  10. Maintain Your Antivirus Software: Ensure you have antivirus installed on your computer. These products typically come with an expiration or subscription, which will need to be kept up with. If it expires, you are much more susceptible to virus or malware attacks.

Proactively taking these simple steps can go a long way in preventing your accounts from being exposed.

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AUTHOR:

BRENDAN FLAHERTY