The headlines are everywhere. New scams and data breaches pop up overnight. Organized crooks want to steal your personal information so they can go on a spending spree.
It’s more important than ever to manage your privacy and keep your information secure. The challenge is knowing what to do.
In a survey we conducted recently, 43 percent of Americans said they felt powerless about online security.1 But they shouldn’t. The easiest, most basic security tips can still prevent the majority of online scams and thefts.
Recently we launched Cyber Aware, a resource for consumers. It ties privacy and security together, because one of the best ways to protect your privacy online is to follow the best security practices.
We’ve tried to create resources that are detailed enough to be helpful, but simple enough to be inviting. Nobody should feel defenseless.
Here are a few of the top tips we include:
- Don’t be like a wildebeest on the savannah, hoping that the lion eats another member of the herd. When it comes to cyber scams, always think, “This could happen to me.” You will pay more attention and be a harder target.
- Be fully aware of “social engineering.” That’s a fancy term for somebody tricking you on a phone call or email – for example, pretending to be from a certain company. Treat strangers like strangers. Share personal information only if you initiate the contact (such as calling the phone number on your bill) – not if someone reaches out to you.
- Only open email and text messages from people you know, and always have your guard up for odd-looking links. You are more vulnerable when you’re tired or not paying attention.
- Keep your computers and mobile devices current with the latest operating system updates and security software. Really. Do it.
- Passwords! Sorry, they are still with us. When you get a new connected device of any kind, don’t leave it on a default password like 0000. Don’t use your dog’s name – or use the same password for every account you have. The latest federal study suggests the best password is probably the longest you can tolerate. It suggests a string of random, short words. (Throwing in numbers, capital letters, etc., is no longer part of the recommendation. Just make it long and random.)
Connected technology is awesome. Smart devices have changed the way we work and play. Safe habits won’t prevent every problem – but they sure help.
Take some simple steps, and get in the habit of keeping your shield up. You’ll go a long way toward protecting your privacy.
About the Author
Margaret Taylor is a director of global public affairs for AT&T. She works with technology policy advocacy organizations, trade associations and individuals to build community consensus around key technology issues.
1In September/October 2017, AT&T surveyed 1,020 U.S. adults to help us better understand their online habits and attitudes about security.