Advancements in technology have made everyday tasks much faster and more efficient. Thanks to the smartphone, tablet and computer, we can pay bills, make travel reservations, shop and much more without leaving home. But this added convenience has a price: a parallel increase in security threats.
Criminals hack into computers, internet sites and email accounts to steal personal information. Others pose as trustworthy entities to solicit personal data and passwords from the unsuspecting.
And, as we are reminded again and again, cyberthieves are ingenious. Each report raises wider concerns. In August, for example, a security firm uncovered one of the largest cybercrimes ever: a Russian hacking ring had amassed more than 1 billion internet passwords as well as other confidential information.
Steps You Can Take
It takes vigilance to combat cybercrime, but by investing time in your own security, you can greatly minimize your chances of being a victim. Following the steps below will go a long way to protect your personal information and your accounts:
- Change passwords regularly — many experts recommend doing so every six months. Don’t share passwords and avoid using the same password for multiple websites.
- Create hard-to-crack passwords using numbers, symbols and both lower and uppercase letters. Don’t use personal names, birthdates or pets’ names.
- Keep your software and computer protections up to date. Browser, software and hardware providers are constantly working to thwart cyberthieves, so always install the latest updates and patches. Also install robust and current anti-virus and anti-malware software protection on your computer and update it regularly.
- Use privacy settings for social media. Control who sees and reads what you do on Facebook, Twitter and other accounts.
- Monitor your personal financial accounts regularly. Check your accounts online. Switch to online statements if you haven’t already. Review statements closely to make sure all transactions shown are ones you made or authorized.
- Request your free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus at least once a year at annualcreditreport.com. Become familiar with how to use fraud alerts and credit freezes.
- Set up text or email alerts on your credit cards and bank accounts to be notified each time there is a transaction.
Protecting your accounts may seem inconvenient, but in a time of widespread electronic fraud, it can help prevent a far greater inconvenience. Watchfulness along with some fundamental privacy and security safeguards can help make you less susceptible to cybercrime.