The Internet is full of happiness around every corner. There are thousands of clips of cats poking their cute little noses out of cardboard boxes that will keep you enchanted for hours. With YouTube, you can learn how to strum out a sick tune on guitar without ever leaving your house and stepping into a music class. You can even meet with a friendly doctor through a video call on your iPhone to save you a trip to his office. The happiness may seem endless, but there’s also a much, much darker side of the Internet where the allure fades into something more dangerous.
Hackers are constantly trying to get their hands on the identities of unsuspecting consumers. They want to get into your bank account and drain your rainy day fund, peruse your emails looking for useful information, and patiently wait for the mail to arrive with the new platinum credit card that they took out using your name and financial details.
Unfortunately, it can be pretty easy for a hacker to get their hands on someone’s identity. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting you to click on a link in an email that downloads some type of malware and ultimately instructs your computer to report its every keystroke back to them. Some scammers will even pick up the phone and give you an old-fashioned call, trying to squeeze information out of you, much like a mixologist squeezes the juice out of a fresh lemon.
There’s a lot to be leery of and with online threats constantly evolving and hackers becoming more creative every day, it’s a challenge to stay safe online. We’ve rounded up some tips to help you ward off the attackers and keep your information – and your identity – safe.
Think before you give away your login information
Hackers will try the trickiest of tricks to get access to your accounts. They’ll send you emails pretending to be from a company that you subscribe to and ask for your password. They’ll convince you that something was wrong with your account and make you believe that you have to login to your account right now to fix a problem. The screen that asks for your credentials will even look just like the company’s real login screen. One of the key differences between the real and fake login page would be the “URL” in your browser’s address bar. Make sure the URL is always what you’d expect to see. Be extra skeptical anytime you receive an email that leads you to a login page, especially if you weren’t expecting the email or something seems “off” about it. Navigate to the company’s website and login from their homepage instead of using the link provided in the email. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Think before you reply
Like most people, you probably get an overwhelming number of emails each day. That’s a lot of delicious discounts to sort through, new scents from Bath & Body Works to daydream about, and invitations from Nigerian princes waiting to send you the fortunes that you’ve magically inherited.
Unfortunately, there aren’t really any princes looking to send us a pile of money and no one is legitimately going to send you a check and ask you to return a portion of the proceeds. If it sounds like you’re going to make out like a bandit, it’s probably just a scam to inflict some financial harm on you. Don’t fall for it. As the old adage goes: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Use a password manager to keep your passwords safe
Using a secure and unique password for every website on which you have an account will enhance your online protections and make it much more difficult for a hacker to gain access to your personal information. If you use a password that isn’t very secure (think “1234” or your birthdate), a hacker can use a simple tool to easily guess your password. If you use a password that isn’t unique, a leaked password from one website can allow an attacker to compromise your accounts on other websites. Using a Password Manager can help generate ultra-secure, random passwords and then store them safely in an encrypted virtual vault that only you can access.
Activate multifactor authentication whenever possible
Some services, like Gmail and Facebook, allow users to require “multifactor authentication” to login to your account. Google, for example, offers a process that will send a text message with a code that needs to be entered before you can login to your account. The more layers of security that can be added, the better your protection. Using multifactor authentication affords that extra layer of account security.
Anti-virus software is your friend
Here’s an example of how quickly things can go wrong. Imagine finding the perfect downloadable tool that you just have to have – let’s say it’s a widget that generates random kitten memes. You download the tool and generate a thousand kitten memes over the next week. Unbeknownst to you, the tool came with a little malware friend that lets someone watch your every click and see every piece of information entered into your computer over that week. Now, someone has a list of all of your passwords, your bank account information, and even your credit card information.
With an endless flow of new malware and viruses out there, choosing a powerful security suite to protect your data is an absolute must and there are plenty of great options available. One example, Sophos Home checks programs as they run on your computer to see if it seems like anything nefarious is going on, which can be a lifesaver if it catches malware.
We hope that these tips help you stay secure and keep your information safe when you’re online. If you feel a transaction may be suspicious or you’re contacted by a Nigerian Prince, feel free to stop in to any of our community offices and speak with a CSR or Manager, or call us at 1-888-759-2266.
If you have additional tips for staying safe online, add them to the comment section below. Thanks for reading!