If you are like most people (82 percent of people, in fact), you worry about your online security and are concerned about your accounts being hacked. And for good reason. More than half (51%) of online consumers experienced a security incident in the past year. Whether your passwords and phone number were stolen in the recent high-profile social media hack or you fell victim to the massive phishing scam from earlier this year, the internet can sometimes feel like it’s full of traps waiting to trip you up. Thankfully, there is plenty you can do to step up your security game and surf the internet with greater peace of mind.
This month marks the 14th annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and I am honored to be doing my part to help raise awareness for the importance of online security and the critical steps we can all take to better protect ourselves online. At TeleSign, we’ve spent more than a decade helping the world’s biggest brands protect their users online from all types of fraud by providing security solutions such as two-factor authentication (2FA) and data intelligence. It’s this experience that has made us experts on identifying and guarding against fraud, and I would like to share with you some key tips that you can use to better protect yourself online.
First things first, let’s talk about the password. Passwords have been proven time and time again to be ineffective on their own in protecting online accounts. Too many people use simple passwords that can be cracked in seconds, and even those that use stronger passwords could improve their account security practices. We recently conducted a survey (Consumer Account Security Report 2016) about consumer security practices and found that nearly half of people (47%) use a password that hasn’t been changed in five years, and seven in ten (71%) online accounts are guarded by duplicate passwords. Add to that only 61 percent of people change their password after an account has been hacked, and it’s no surprise we are seeing bigger and bigger hacks making headlines each year.
So, if passwords, and our password habits, are failing, what can we do? The answer is 2FA – a second layer of account security that combines something you know (your password) with something you have (such as your mobile phone) to stop hackers from breaking into your accounts. 2FA comes in many forms, but one of the most common and easily available is receiving a one-time passcode via SMS to your mobile phone. Many companies today provide 2FA as a free service, and while not enough people take advantage of this vital security step, progress has been made in recent years. In 2016, 46 percent of consumers had 2FA enabled for one or more accounts, up from 39 percent in 2015 (an 18% increase). To help raise awareness for the power of 2FA and encourage more people to turn it on, we created a free resource that provides step-by-step instructions for how to turn it on for all your favorite accounts – TurnOn2FA.com. If you haven’t already turned on 2FA everywhere you can, we recommend visiting the site right away.
Stepping up your password game and turning on 2FA go a long way towards improving your online security, but they are not the only steps you can take. Here are some other key tips to help you feel better about your online safety:
- Lock Your Devices
- It is always a best practice to use the lock feature in your device’s settings. You should set your devices to lock and require a password for use when you’re not been using them.
- Get Savvy About Public WiFi
- Public WiFi availability can be very convenient, but there are risks involved. Beware of “free WiFi” networks, as it’s is pretty easy for someone to intercept your data in a man-in-the-middle attack. As a general rule, limit the business you conduct on public wireless networks (avoiding banking, shopping and/or entering other sensitive information) and consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or smartphone hotspot for a more secure connection on the go.
- Consider a Password Manager
- Password managers relieve the burden of having to memorize all the different, complex passwords you’ve created by managing them all in one “vault” and locking that vault with a single master password. There are many great password managers out there and PCWorld has a great list of four strong optionsto get your started.
- Back up Your Files
- Even with all the protections in the world, accidents and fraud do happen, so it’s important to back up all your important files so you can easily recover them in the event that they are stolen or lost. This is an especially important step in protecting against ransomware attacks, which continue to be used more and more by hackers.
By following each of these steps, you are making great progress to better protecting your online life, but it is also important to stay diligent with your habits and up to date with the latest available security. I encourage you to install key software and application updates that patch security holes and read technology news for important cybersecurity updates. Finally, be sure to share these tips with friends and family to help them protect themselves as well.
Think you’ve got it all down? Take our QUIZ to see how your security game stacks up.
About the Author
Ryan Disraeli is a co-founder and vice president of TeleSign, where he devotes his time to consulting with enterprise customers and partners, enabling them to leverage the most out of TeleSign’s technology and to use the full power of telco data to protect their ecosystems.
In his role, Ryan is able to call on his experience in launching new companies, technical business management and product management in the Internet security and telecoms industries. He has spoken at several global industry events, serves on committee with the Merchant Risk Council and is a frequent spokesperson for TeleSign.
Ryan holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business (magna cum laude).