October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and at PSECU, we make security a top priority. No matter what stage of life you’re in, taking the same precautions will help protect your personally identifiable information (PII), keep your devices secure and in good working order, and make you a good online citizen. Here are some tips to get you on your way.
Protect your accounts and personal information
- Use strong passwords or passphrases – Passwords should be at least 12 characters long with a mix of letters, numbers, and characters. A passphrase is even better and easier to remember. To make a passphrase, choose a sentence, a song lyric, or a phrase that is meaningful to you.
- Create unique passwords for every site – This can be a challenge if you have many online accounts, so consider using a password manager. Before choosing one, look at reviews of different products, features, and prices online to find the one that’s the best fit for you and will offer the greatest security.
- Enable secure authentication tools – Authentication tools protect your account by requiring something other than, or in addition to, a password in order to gain access. Use the strongest authentication tools available such as biometrics and one-time passcodes, especially on accounts for social media and banking.
Protect your devices and important data
- Use lock screens – Every device should have the lock screen feature enabled. This will help limit who can gain access to the device and the information stored on it.
- Perform backups of your computer or mobile device – A backup makes copies of your important files, documents, and photos for recovery in the event of hardware failure, malware infection, or loss. Backups should be stored somewhere other than on the device. You can choose either physical storage, such as a thumb drive or cloud-based storage, which is typically an application. Search the advantages and disadvantages of these solutions online to find out which one is right for you and make sure you keep personal and financial information stored securely.
- Keep it clean – Computers, mobile devices, apps and anything else connected to the Internet (think TVs, baby monitors, gaming consoles) require updates. The best defense against threats is to automatically update security software, browsers, and operating systems.
- Scan external devices – USBs and other external devices can be infected with viruses. Scan these devices with your security software prior to accessing stored data.
Connect securely and click with care
- Use secure sites for shopping and banking – Access to sites where you exchange private or confidential information should have a web address beginning with https://. Do not use http:// sites for banking and shopping.
- Click with care – Be alert for suspicious links in emails and advertisements, especially if it’s something you were not expecting. These can be manipulated by criminals to compromise your computer or device. If you don’t know the sender, delete the message. Don’t be fooled by messages that tell you to act quickly. Always think before you click or share private information.
- Think before you download – Only download apps from trusted sources like the Apple App Store and Google Play. Read reviews and pay attention to the release date and number of downloads – these can be indicators of the validity and safety of the app. Do a routine check of your apps. If you’re no longer using one, delete it.
Exercising caution and following these tips can help keep your information secure. If you discover that you’re a victim of cyber-crime or identity theft, there are steps you should take. Report the crime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the state attorney general, and your local law enforcement.