Even if you hate technology, it’s everywhere and it’s here to stay. In fact, the Internet of Things (IoT) is probably just going to get more prevalent. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to keep a few security tips in mind when turning on your mobile device or computer and hopping on the Internet.

Strong passwords are not only highly recommended, but are also often mandatory these days. And it can be frustrating when that error pops up that yours doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, yet it doesn’t always let you in on what those are for a particular website.

A good guideline is that they should be eight characters and include a combination of upper and lower case letters, at least one number, and a special character; or several of them. Avoid using dictionary words or information that is private or easy to guess, such as birthdates of loved ones. Whatever you do, don’t use “football” or “password” as your password. Those are on the list of worst, but most used passwords for 2016. Unfortunately, “password” and variations of “1234567890” are also on that list. There’s a reason. They really are bad and definitely not strong.

In addition, every online account should have a unique user name and password combination. Rotate the use of your passwords. Change them as often as possible, but at least quarterly.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication
When multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor (2FA) authentication is offered, take advantage of it. This means you will need to use more than one way to confirm your identity when logging into your account. Often it means receiving an email or text with a code that needs to be entered before the site will allow access. However, there are other ways this can be done as well. A newer and increasingly preferred method is to use a security key. It’s an actual piece of hardware, about the size of a house key that you plug into your computer’s USB slot. It prevents unauthorized access to your accounts, because if you don’t have the key, you cannot log in. Sites such as Google and Dropbox support this technology.

Keep Software Updated
Know what operating system is on your computer. It will typically be some version of Microsoft Windows or Apple iOS. However, there are others as well, such as Linux. Keep it updated with the latest fixes and version updates.

Even if it isn’t reasonable or possible to update the operating system every time a new one is released, ensure that all critical and security updates are applied as soon as they are made available. Once the developer no longer supports an operating system or software version, it is time to get an update. Once they are no longer supported, critical and security patches are no longer released for the version opening you up to far more security risks.

Install some type of anti-malware protection on your computer. There are many choices ranging from basic protection against viruses to more thorough solutions that act as personal firewalls. The price ranges are vast as well; from free to hundreds depending on individual needs.

Backup Critical and Files that are Important to You
Get into the habit of backing up important files and programs. There are many ways these can be lost, including a hard drive failure, or accidentally executing ransom ware that holds those files hostage until money is paid to a bad guy. Backups can be done easily to an external hard drive. Some are so simple that they just need to be plugged into the computer with a USB connection and the hard drive just grabs the files.

Copying them to some type of cloud service is also an option. Many vendors offer this service and some provide a basic amount of storage space at no charge. The more space needed, the more it costs.

Do these backups regularly, depending on how often your data changes. The more recent the backup, the less re-work needed should the backed-up files be necessary to retrieve.

Security Tools
There are tools that help keep your information and equipment safe. Some are locks to keep a thief from walking off with the computer and others are software solutions such as Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and solutions for encrypting software. Also, make sure the popup blockers are switched on for each browser used when surfing the Web and consider getting an ad blocking software. This will help to avoid accidental clicking on malicious ads.

Review Social Media Profiles and Postings
Most who are skeptical of new technology and particularly online technology may not be as likely to use social media. However, even those who don’t like websites such as Facebook and Instagram, may have a need for using business-related social media. Use caution, regardless of the website, about connecting with those who are strangers. Not everyone really wants to be your friend or colleague.

Be cautious of your posts and profile information too. More often, that is being harvested by hackers and used for spear-phishing and whaling attacks. These are targeted attacks with the intent of gaining specific information, such as W-2 data or convincing someone to make a wire transfer to a scammer’s bank account by posing as an executive.

It is nearly impossible to be a consumer without using email. When opening email messages, be extra certain the sender is trustworthy. If there are attachments or links included, don’t open them unless you are certain it is absolutely safe. Take extra time to learn how to identify phishing email messages. This is the number one way in which malicious programs are let loose on computers.

There is plenty of information on products and safe browsing habits and it can even be found in books that can be physically held in hand.  So, jump on in to the virtual world. While it can be overwhelming, as long as you maintain good cyber habits, you can lower your risk of becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft.

Donovan B. Fox © Copyright 2017 SDFCU.org