Technology and innovation have transformed the way we learn, work, and play. Over the past two years, we moved nearly every aspect of our lives to digital channels: many of us participated in meetings by web conference, ordered groceries for delivery, and held virtual chats to keep in touch with family and friends. This integration of digital services in our daily lives will likely continue to change the way many of us shop, bank, and connect with others. Unfortunately, with this rise in online interactions, phishing, ransomware and other cyber threats have also doubled since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and are showing no signs of slowing down. But the good news is, people don’t need to be cybersecurity experts to secure their information! They can greatly reduce risk by making small changes to online habits.
Here are 7 simple tips to keep cybersecurity top of mind:
1. Choose strong passwords and use multi-factor authentication options, when available, for online accounts.
We all have a lot of log ins, from our healthcare portals to our food delivery accounts. It is important to select a different password for each account, ensuring these passwords include a combination of upper and lower case letters, alphanumeric and special characters. (Be sure to change them frequently as well!) Unique passwords are critical for protecting your account should the company become compromised in a data breach. It’s also a good habit to enable multi-factor authentication when it is available for an additional layer of security. Multi-factor authentication is a combination of “something you know, something you are, and something you have.” This can be a combination of these things: password, biometric identification (ex. FaceID, TouchID), codes sent to the number or email on record, or signing in from a recognized device.
2. Protect your wireless network and smart home devices.
Change the default passwords and privacy settings on your wireless router and other internet-connected home devices (also known as “Internet of Things” or IoT devices). Many default passwords are available on the internet; so choose a new one when setting up your home network to prevent access from unauthorized users. A connected home can be convenient, but it also opens up a number of security risks. IoT devices can collect and store information on usage, habits, and preferences. Also, some IoT devices may not adequately address security or privacy issues. (For example, baby monitors and security cameras have been hacked, giving criminals the ability to see inside a house.) Be selective about what IoT devices are connected and consider creating a guest network to keep them separate from your network used for email or bank accounts. Other tips include turning off the microphone when working with sensitive information and disabling personalized results.
3. Keep computers, smartphones, and tablets up-to-date.
No, you don’t have to be the first in line to get the newest laptop/smartphone/tablet on the market. But be sure to install the latest security software and operating systems. Turn on automatic updates or check for bug fixes often so you don’t miss important security patches to protect you in a fast-changing cyber threat landscape.
4. Only download apps from trusted sites.
On your mobile devices and tablets, only install apps from trusted digital marketplaces and trusted app developers. Malicious apps can masquerade as a fun game or financial account manager, but steal your personal and financial data without your knowledge. Check the reviews and user agreements before installing and granting access.
5. Be careful what you share online.
Limit the personal information you post online and adjust your privacy settings when using social media. Personal details can be used to harvest log-in credentials or create convincing fraud scams that target you and your friends. If you notice a scammer impersonating you, report the account and advise your friends and family to ignore suspicious requests that use your likeness.
6. Watch out for phishing “hooks.”
Evaluate every email, phone call, text, or direct message carefully, especially if it’s unexpected or urges you to take immediate action. Be especially mindful of hyperlinks and attachments from unfamiliar sources; these can contain malware or ransomware that can steal your confidential information or lock you out of your device. Similar scams occur by phone (known as voice phishing or ‘vishing’). Don’t trust the numbers that display on the caller ID because scammers can use services to mask the true origin of their call. Always verify who you are communicating with before sharing any information and never disclose your password or other confidential information (like Social Security Number, account number, or credit card number) over the phone, by email, or on social media. If you have questions about the legitimacy of a request, contact the company directly through a number you can verify is correct, like the customer service line printed on your bankcard or statement. Do NOT use the contact info included in the message, which usually directs back to the scammer or accomplice.
7. Back up your data
Even if you are cautious, you may still fall victim to a convincing scam or ransomware. Be prepared by backing up important data from your computer, phone, or tablet to an external hard drive or secure cloud account so you can restore your data if necessary. Reach out to an IT tech support service or check your warranty if you have any issues with your computer or device.
From a secure banking perspective, change your password immediately if you think it has been compromised. Keep an eye on your accounts by setting up alerts and enabling security features like card controls (which let you temporarily disable your card if it gets lost). Check your account activity often and report suspicious transactions to your bank as soon as possible. In addition, check your credit report several times a year and notify creditors if something looks wrong.
These are just a few easy ways anyone can help keep the internet safe and protect their information. Follow @staysafeonline and come back to this site throughout Cybersecurity Awareness Month and beyond to learn more simple ways you can be safer online. I’m confident you can Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.
Truist is proud to champion Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Learn more about how Truist can help you stay safe online here: https://truist.com/fraud-and-security
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About The Author
Steve Scott is an Executive Vice President and the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Truist Financial Corporation. As CISO, Mr. Scott is responsible for execution of the Corporation’s Information Security Program and alignment with enterprise programs and business objectives, ensuring that information assets and technologies are protected.
Mr. Scott is a member of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) with the following active ISACA certifications: CRISC, CGEIT, CISA, CRP, and CISM. Mr. Scott also holds a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2). Mr. Scott received a BS in Business Administration and Management from High Point University. In addition, he is a graduate of the Executive Leadership Program of Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC.