Quick and easy cyber security tips to keep your personal information safe
TRI-CITIES, Wash. – In today's rapidly evolving technological landscape, it's critical for people to be prepared for—and know how to respond to—cybersecurity incidents.
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and experts have the goal of educating people about things they should be doing, not just once a year but on a regular basis.
Many people have a lot of work to do when it comes to guarding against cyber threats.
In 2017, identity theft reports to BBB Scam Tracker increased by 49% with a total of about 700 scams. In comparison, identity theft victims reported 350 scams in 2016.
Victims in 2016 also reported to BBB about 1,200 phishing scams. From January to September 2017, phishing victims reported more than 11,000 scams—an increase of 89%.
So how do you protect yourself, whether it's a computer, your smartphone or even a smart TV?
Security experts said most importantly, you need to safeguard your personal information.
Be vigilant with personal information.
"Protect your personal information with everything you have, “said Kirstin Davis, development director at the Northwest Better Business Bureau. “It is the quickest way for people to take your money, your health benefits and do things that take a long time to recover from.”
Consumers should think of personal information like money: value and protect it.
Don’t give out your social security number unless it’s necessary, Davis said.
"Be careful where you click," Davis warned.
Links in emails, social media posts and online advertising are often how cybercriminals try to steal personal information. If something looks suspicious, delete it.
If you're filling out an online form or survey, make sure you know where that information is going and that it’s not a data mining scam.
You should also be sure you are on a legitimate site before entering personal information.
Additionally, you should be wary of communications that pressure you to act immediately or offer something that sounds too good to be true.
Get two steps ahead.
Users should consider looking for new technology that incorporates the strongest authentication tools such as two-factor authentication.
"Anytime that is offered absolutely take advantage of it," Davis advised.
This tool requires users to not only sign in with a password and username but also something extra only the user knows or something they have such as a text message code, fingerprint, or face for facial recognition.
Keep machines updated.
To keep online threats, viruses and malware away, consumers should make sure all devices have the latest security software.
"I know it may seem like a hassle, but every single update contains additional security measures," Davis explained.
Updating devices can reduce the risk of infection from malware.
Instead of logging off, turn it off.
By turning off your device, it will disconnect your electronics from the internet and keep hackers out.
Don’t make it easy.
As always, make powerful passwords, and change them for different accounts. Davis suggests using phrases for passwords. It makes them harder to decipher, but still easy enough to remember.
"We can no longer think that it’s a set it and forget it situation,” Davis said. “Just like you make sure your doors are locked on your house, you need to monitor your accounts on a regular basis."
When it comes to security questions, Davis suggests answering with a different answer than asked.
For example, if the question is What was my first car?
“Your answer might be your dog’s name,” Davis said.
How to respond to a cyber threat.
If you find yourself in a situation where your information has been compromised, Davis said you need to take action immediately.
"The first thing you want to do is go through your credit reports, go to annualcreditreport.com," she said.
The site is edorsed by the FTC and offers free reports, you can see what’s happening with your accounts, monitor information, and even put fraud alerts in place.
We're living in fast changing times and Davis said it’s important to do what you can now to protect your private information into the future.
For cybersecurity tips, other scams and the latest alerts, download the BBB App at bbbapp.org.
Anyone who feels they may be a victim of a cybercrime should report it to local law enforcement and BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.