“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Unless someone steals your identity or you infect your computer at work or at home with a virus. ‘Tis the season for shopping! Unless your identity gets stolen and you have to deal with fraudulent charges.
Here is our gift to you! Some helpful tips on how to stay safe in cyberspace and protect your data when shopping and working because we all play an active role in computer security.
The holidays bring an increase in emails, and everyone has a special offer, so let’s start with basic computer security reminders. These are some common sense, easy ways to protect your computer and other devices.
We know you have heard it before… passwords. You know you shouldn’t use the same one for every online account, right? When you do you are just making a hacker's job so much easier. They just need to figure out one password and then it’s open sesame to all those accounts that have the same one.
What makes a strong password?
Length is important
No less than 9 characters
Lowercase letters are easier to hack
Use a combination of UPPERCASE letters, symbols, and numbers
Don't use the same password for every account
How to Secure Your Computer and Devices
The next thing you can do is keep your systems updated. This will keep them active with the latest technology and updates that programmers have made, which in turn makes them safer for you. Update spyware and malware. Run scans regularly. Update your operating system. Remember that you do need to power some devices down to complete many updates. And updating goes for phones and tablets as well. Set your settings for auto-updates to help you remember.
Another way to keep your data safe is to encrypt it and back it up. You can make backups to your cloud or an external hard drive or both. Many systems do automatic backups if you have selected that. It’s a good idea to look and see if you are having your data automatically backed up and know where those backups are kept should you need them.
Be vigilant for email scams. Don’t open strange emails from an unknown address. Don’t click links in emails that you are unsure of. If an email that comes from one of your contacts seems oddly written reach out and contact them to confirm that they sent it. This could alert them if they have been hacked.
Now let’s talk about shopping. With an increase in shopping online and in stores, you want to ensure you protect your information.
Online Shopping Tips to Protect Your Data
Shop websites you know and trust.
You can tell if a website is secure by looking for the padlock in the URL bar.
Look for misspellings on the website this can be a red flag.
Check out their social media. It should be active and have recent activity.
Search for reviews on sites like trustpilot.com
Check return policies- no return policy is a red flag
You should be able to find information like email address, phone number, and/or physical address
More Data Safety Tips
Check bank statements routinely. If you do this you will be able to see if there are unknown charges right away rather than in 6 months when it might be harder to dispute them.
Make your life easier and use a password manager. You don’t have to remember all your different passwords. Your password manager will do it for you. *Don’t forget that all your passwords SHOULD be different
Avoid public wifi. Even charging your phone in the airport or at a store can open you up to being hacked. Be aware of your activity when you are on these open networks, don’t enter any passwords or access bank or credit card accounts.
Pay using mobile payments instead of using your debit card. Mobile payments like Google Pay and Apple code each one of your transactions individually so they have different numbers and are safer than using your debit card. Another alternative to debit cards is using your credit cards when shopping online. Credit cards allow you to usually claim your money back if your card was stolen.
Open an online banking account and transfer money into it only to make a specific purchase. This gives you an alternative to using your debit card to your checking account where all of your money is. If someone gets access to this “online account” after you made a purchase there will be no money in there for them to take.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to shop online safely. There are many websites that provide VPNs for a fee. You sign up for one and then use this to access browsers and shop. Using a VPN changes your IP address, the unique number that identifies you and your location in the world. This is an added layer of security for when you are performing online transactions.
In the end, you are the best person to secure your data. Stay up to date. Put procedures in place for how you shop online and with your debit and credit cards and check those bank statements. Wishing you and your data safe and secure holidays!