This article was adapted from the Your Money Vehicle textbook.
A message on your computer that appears to be from Netflix says, “Your membership has expired, click here to renew.”
If you didn’t know about the risk of having your information stolen online, it’d be terribly easy to fall into the trap above. One click on a hacker’s malicious link is all it takes to have your personal information stolen and shared online.
To avoid becoming a hacker’s next victim, here are eight cybersecurity tips that will help keep your information safe and secure on the internet.
Hover Over Link
The easiest and best defense against fake links is just holding your cursor arrow over the link. A bubble will appear that shows you exactly where the link will send you. If a destination pops up that you aren’t trying to go to, don’t click. Delete.
Do Not Hit Reply, Log in Directly
Do not click anywhere in a suspicious message to respond. Instead, close the email and go directly to the source it is supposed to have come from, such as your bank’s actual website. Even clicking “Cancel” or “Close Here” within the email can be hazardous. Always click on the X in the top right corner of the window to close it.
Even if the email is legitimate, it’s safer to go to the site on your own. Follow the same rule when you receive fishy phone calls—hang up and call the business back from the number listed on their website.
If the website or email seems suspicious at all, do not download the attachment. Install an anti-phishing (phishing is a term that describes a hacker’s attempt to trick you into giving them your information) toolbar that will alert you when you stumble onto malicious sites.
Update and Remove Software
Keep your operating system up to date, and make sure that your antivirus software and firewall (a system designed to prevent unauthorized access to your desktop and network) are enabled. Try to automate your updates. Remove any old systems that you are no longer using.
Always Log Out
Attacks can happen when you move from one site to another. Logging out completely and closing the account you are in will prevent this. If you do want to remain in the account, then open a new browser session instead of just a new window.
Avoid Public Access
Beginning with your home wireless network and mobile phone, assign a passcode to log in. Turn off Bluetooth® when you are not using it. Connect to your mobile phone’s hotspot instead of the public access network at the coffee shop, in the airport, or on the bus.
Be Aware of Sloppiness, Misspellings, and Poor Grammar
Verify that the URL begins with HTTP and has a closed lock icon in the address bar! Poorly written, badly designed, and/or vague emails did not come from a professional company.
Create a Secure Password
A strong password should be eight or more characters in length and use uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Do not be predictable—things like your birthday, pet’s name, or favorite soccer player are all easily identified through social media (this rule also applies to your security questions).
By following these tips online, you’ll foil most hackers’ attempts to steal your information and be better able to protect yourself on the internet.
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