Protecting Yourself from Cyber Criminals
Every day in the news, it seems like we hear about yet another breach. This is followed up with usual email or letter stating that your information was potentially involved in the breach and that an offer of credit monitoring has been extended. What can you do to protect yourself from these breaches and from the cyber criminals out there?
- Use strong passwords on sites that you frequent…these should be different passwords for each site. Password managers like Last Pass make password management a breeze.
- Use two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever it is offered. Traditionally this is done in the form of a text message (less secure), but can be done using a 3rd party authentication application (more secure) like Google Authenticator or Authy. If you are unsure if a site you do business with offers 2FA, check https://www.turnon2fa.com/. This site includes a list of companies that offer 2FA and instructions on how to enable it.
- Use an anti-virus product from a reputable company and keep it up to date. Ensure that it is able to do regular scans checking for malware. Additionally, choosing a product that is able to do real-time scanning is extremely beneficial.
- Put a freeze on your credit record. If someone does steal your identity, they will most likely be unable to take out loans under your name if the financial institution can’t run a credit check. When you want to get a loan, you can either temporarily unfreeze your credit, or if you trust the institution, you can give them your PIN and they can make the request with that PIN. That will enable them to pull your credit record. Fees for this will vary depending on which credit bureau you are doing the freeze with, and which state you are in. The three major credit bureaus are Experian, Equifax and Transunion. You may also want to put the freeze on at Innovis, another credit bureau.
Other than these tips, remember the old adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Cyber criminals often send emails posing as businesses you may work with. The email will usually contain a deal that is too good to be true, or a warning about your account which you need to act on immediately. They do this typically to steal your username and password. If you believe you have fallen victim to this type of attack, change your passwords immediately. 2FA can provide some degree of protection against this type of attack, as the criminal will not have access to the number sent by text, or generated by the app.
Be safe out there on the interwebs!