Has this ever happened to you?  You are having a conversation with your spouse, close friend, or maybe even a co-worker about wanting to take a trip or buy the next trending gadget.  Only to open your Facebook, Google, or maybe Amazon webpage and to your surprise, you see an advertisement banner with suggestions on the very item you were discussing earlier.  Wow!  It’s magic.  Nope, not really.  Everything you do online and everything you say online (Siri, Alexa, Google Plus, Cortana) can now be used to harvest information about you.  Remember, anything you share online will always stay online.

Did you know 64% of U.S. adults have noticed or been notified of a major data breach affecting their sensitive accounts or personal data?[1]  Or did you know that 58% of Americans age 50 and older are more likely to feel that their personal information has become less safe in recent years?[2] The Internet touches almost all aspects of our daily lives. We can shop, bank, connect with family and friends, and handle our medical records all online. These activities require you to provide personally identifiable information (PII) such as your name, date of birth, account numbers, passwords, and location information.  It is no wonder that 69% of consumers believe companies are vulnerable to hacks and cyberattacks.[3]

The internet is an exciting and dangerous playground and it will always forever be a part of our lives.  Here are some tips to help stay safer online[4]:

 

  • Double your login protection. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you. Use it for email, banking, social media, and any other service that requires logging in. If MFA is an option, enable it by using a trusted mobile device, such as your smartphone, an authenticator app, or a secure token—a small physical device that can hook onto your key ring.

 

  • Shake up your password protocol. According to NIST guidance, you should consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible. Get creative and customize your standard password for different sites, which can prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to these accounts and protect you in the event of a breach. Use password managers to generate and remember different, complex passwords for each of your accounts.

 

  • Be up to date. Keep your software updated to the latest version available. Maintain your security settings to keep your information safe by turning on automatic updates, so you don’t have to think about it and set your security software to run regular scans.

 

  • If you connect, you must protect. Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, game device, or other network devices, the best defense against viruses and malware is to update to the latest security software, web browser, and operating systems. Sign up for automatic updates, if you can, and protect your devices with anti-virus software.

 

  • Use Incognito/Private mode within your browser. This will help prevent websites from sharing information and showing you ads about topics you just discussed with your friends.

 

  • Wi-Fi is comparable to speaking out loud, and anyone close enough can eavesdrop and see what you are doing online unless you use a VPN or ensure that you only visit HTTPS-encrypted sites.

 

Sources:

[1] Smith, Aaron. “Americans and Cybersecurity.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. April 27, 2017. https://www.pewinternet.org/2017/01/26/americans-and-cybersecurity/.

[2] Smith, Aaron. “Americans and Cybersecurity.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. April 27, 2017. https://www.pewinternet.org/2017/01/26/americans-and-cybersecurity/.

[3] PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Consumer Intelligence Series: Protect.me.” PwC. 2017. https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/consulting/library/consumer-intelligence-series/cybersecurity-protect-me.html.

[4] https://niccs.us-cert.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/ncsam_onlineprivacy_508.pdf?trackDocs=ncsam_onlineprivacy_508.pdf