It’s no secret that the internet can be a dangerous place. However, we rely on the internet these days for everything from networking to job hunting to shopping — It’s what some might call a necessary evil. Because we often have to share personal information online, it is important to know how to utilize the internet while also protecting ourselves. One misstep and anyone could be looking at severe damage in the form of stolen identity, security threats, hacking, or worse — so this must be taken seriously. October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which means there’s no better time to learn about keeping your information safe.
Be wary of emails from unknown senders. Phishers often try to fool people into clicking links, opening attachments, entering information, or otherwise responding to illegitimate emails. If you’re unsure of who an email is from or something feels “off” about it, the best practice is to avoid responding or clicking any links. Even if the email looks legitimate, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If the email has a lot of typos or claims to be from one person but the address doesn’t match up, that’s usually a good indication you should send it to the trash. Another good practice is hovering over hyperlinks to see what site they actually go to – if it’s unfamiliar or doesn’t match what the email says, you can assume the message is fraudulent.
Protect your devices. Keep your computer, phone, and any other device you may use up to date. Always make sure you’re running the newest versions of cybersecurity software, internet browsers, and operating systems. If you can afford it, look into purchasing antivirus or anti-malware software for added protection. PC Mag has a great review of your options for protecting your devices.
Use two-factor authentication when available. Traditionally, most accounts require you to enter a username and password to access your account, and if you’re like most people, you use the same password for multiple accounts (strongly discouraged). However, more and more sites now offer two-factor authentication. Setting this up requires you to enter another form of identification, like a code sent to your mobile device, to prove your identity.
Exercise caution with public Wi-Fi. When you’re in a restaurant, coffee shop, hotel, or another public place, make sure you confirm with an employee before connecting to the Wi-Fi network. Phishers may create fake networks under the establishments’ names in order to lure in victims, so it’s vital to ensure you connect to a legitimate network. When you do connect to public Wi-Fi, don’t complete tasks that require sensitive information like passwords and banking accounts or credit card numbers. If you’re in public and absolutely need to handle something sensitive online, use your phone’s personal hotspot instead of free Wi-Fi (more info on that here). When you’re banking or shopping online, make sure you’re using a site you trust, and look for the “https://” code to ensure the site uses a secure encrypted connection.
Get creative with your passwords. The more complex your password is, the harder it is for someone to figure it out. This may seem like common sense, but people often opt for simpler passwords because they think they may not remember longer ones. If you use the same password for every website, it might be easier for cybercriminals to hack your accounts. When one password is released, like in the event of a breach, all your matching passwords are also compromised. You can use Safari- or Google-suggested passwords or a password manager if you need help creating and remembering a lot of different and complicated passwords. I recommend people use phrases as their password because they’re easy to remember and much harder to hack. LastPass is another great resource because it acts as a vault for your passwords, effectively removing the need to remember the variations you use across accounts. Best of all, they have a free version.
Keep what you share on social media selective. You may think you only need to be selective when sharing private information, such as passwords, banking information, Social Security numbers addresses, etc. But criminals can use even the most unlikely details to target you. Whether you’re sharing your birthday, vacation plans, or favorite cafe, that information can be used against you because it could signal to a thief you’re away from home or expecting deliveries to your door. It’s generally better to be safe than sorry when it comes to sharing information, even on a private social media account.
A Reminder for SouthEast Bank Customers: If you’re a SouthEast Bank customer, although we may contact you by phone, text, or email, we will never initiate communication by asking for your account number, PIN, password, or other personal information. If you are uncertain about the source of anyone claiming to represent SouthEast Bank, please call 1-844-SEBANKS. The sooner you report suspicious activity, the sooner we can help protect you and other customers. Click here for more on our security practices.
As takeaways, keep private information private, make your accounts as secure as possible, and always think carefully before clicking a link or opening an email. If you simply remember to exercise caution, your level of cybersecurity will improve. A little bit of mindfulness goes a long way.
Note: Links to other websites or references to services or applications are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site, service or application. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites, services or applications.
Information contained in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing contained in this blog should be construed as legal or tax advice. An attorney or tax advisor should be consulted for advice on specific issues.