The internet has revolutionized the way we live our lives and has provided greater convenience and access to information, entertainment and services. But it seems that every week we hear about a new virus, cyber attack, or data-breach. Cyber-criminals are increasing the frequency and sophistication of their attacks on governments, businesses and individuals. They are after our personal information in order to use it against us or for profit.
As the author Bodie Thoene said, “What is right is often forgotten by what is convenient” and this is unfortunately often the case while going online. The National Cyber Security Alliance’s website - Stay Safe Online – is a thorough resource with guidance from online safety basics to resources to how to cyber secure yourself and your business and even delves further into how to report cybercrime. Ultimately, our online responsibility is up to us and here are a few tips to stay safe online:
If you wouldn’t do something in person, don’t do it online. The line between the physical world and the online world has blurred – treat the internet like the real-world. Would you leave your credit card number with your retailer to charge you later? Of course not, so reconsider storing your credit card number with an online retailer. Would you go through an unmarked door that a stranger asked you to go through? No. So why click on a link sent from someone that you don’t know? Would you install an alarm system and not change the default passcode? If not, then do not install or use a device using the manufacturer installed passcode or password.
You don’t have to go overboard. It can be frustrating to keep track of passwords, especially when you’re required to have some combination of length, lower and upper case letters, special characters and other restrictions. Having several strong passwords is ideal – but the truth is, it can sometimes be hard to remember what you had for breakfast let alone multiple complex passwords. There are some good password managers out there that can help with tracking all of your online accounts and passwords. If you do have to re-use passwords, at a minimum, use common sense and don’t use the same password for all your financial institution accounts, for example.
Get a little help from your friends and be your own advocate. In our workplaces, we often rely on IT personnel to keep the network safe and ensure our devices are updated with the latest anti-virus or anti-malware software. In our personal lives, we are our own IT department and we should consider adopting some of the same practices we see in the workplace. Install anti-virus software, make sure you use secure access when you can on a public network, turn on the firewall on your PC and use SSL, HTTPS and/or VPN whenever you can.
For most of us, the most valuable asset we have for cybercriminals is our financial information. One of the easiest ways to know if your online identity has been compromised is to stay on top of your financial institution statements and credit reports.
The internet can be a dangerous place, but so can the physical world. We’re taught to use common sense and a bit of street-smarts when navigating the physical world and these same tactics can be applied to the online world, as well.