October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month! Since Money Vehicle believes that cybersecurity is a critical component of any financial literacy course, especially when teaching financial literacy for high school students, we thought it would be a good idea to recap what cybersecurity is all about — and to make sure you’re taking measures to protect yourself.
Cybersecurity Awareness Month dates back to 2004, and this year, the federal government — the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), specifically — launched a new “Secure Our World” campaign to make sure it’s on Americans’ radar. It’s important, too, as a recent study showed that data breaches exposed more than 22 billion files containing sensitive and personal information in 2021.
That has obvious implications for your finances. As such, if you want to consider yourself to be financially literate, you should know the basics of how to keep yourself safe from cyber attacks.
Here’s a short video from the CISA’s director, Jen Easterly, discussing the importance of cybersecurity, and outlining some steps to take to protect yourself.
How to Protect Yourself From Cyberattacks
Money Vehicle has published blog posts on this topic before, and they’re worth revisiting. While there’s really no way to completely protect yourself from cyberattacks or digital intrusions — unless you want to completely go offline, which would be very difficult in this day and age — you should consider taking the following measures to beef up your digital resilience.
Here are some steps we think you should take, borrowed from one of our previously-published posts on the topic of cybersecurity:
1. Prepare for Cyberattacks
The first step of cybersecurity is determining what you should protect. For example, you can safeguard data such as social security numbers, contacts, card details, accounts, and transaction records. You could also protect family members’ data such as insurance forms, credentials, and medical records.
The next part is tracking the movement of your data, including where it’s created, collected, and stored. This way, you can effectively protect your mobile devices and networks. But no matter the level of protection, you’re still vulnerable to data loss. That’s why you should prepare for eventualities.
2. Strengthen Your Passwords
Many people resort to simple passwords — because it’s easy! Some might even use a common passcode for different platforms. Remembering them might be challenging, but complex passwords are harder to crack. Rather than using sequential numbers, your name, or your birthday, you can strengthen your password by combining random lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
Your password should also be long. Though most sites require 8-10 characters, you can extend the passcode to 15 characters for maximum security. Furthermore, avoid storing passwords on browsers. Saved passwords might speed up your logins, but hackers can still gain access through malware and extensions. The best option is to use a password manager. That way, you minimize the risk of forgetting your passcodes or writing them down.
Also: Don’t forget to change passwords often. By reviewing your login credentials from time to time, you secure your systems when you lose a device or someone accesses your old password. Remember, passwords aren’t enough. You can set up two-factor authentication to receive a code on your device for every login attempt.
3. Remain Vigilant
Avoiding a cyber attack is all about making wise choices. Don’t share too much online, don’t download strange things, click on weird links, etc. Watch out for common tactics, too, like phishing attempts.
Remember, phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated by the day. Hackers may attack your systems using seemingly genuine email attachments such as invoices or receipts.
4. Data Backup
Backing up your data can prevent it from being destroyed, so it’s a good practice. For example, you can safeguard your documents from physical theft, file corruption, hardware failures, and disasters such as floods and fires.
But backups also defend you from ransomware. This is when hackers encrypt your files and demand ransoms for the access code. Remember to check your backups regularly to confirm they still work.
You can set automatic backups to a frequency of your choice. Automation minimizes the risk of human error and forgetfulness, too.
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And check out our white paper: “Strategies for Increasing Financial Literacy Rates Among High School and College Students”
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