October is cybersecurity month, a month when industry leaders do everything they can to bring awareness to safely browsing the web and taking advantage of all it has to offer.
The truth is that most people in this world are good people, but there are bad apples from time to time. As the world moves increasingly toward online interfaces, protecting your privacy and financial data online is more important than ever before.
Although October may be coming to an end, the importance of cybersecurity never stops.
What Is Cybersecurity Month?
Cybersecurity month lasts the entire month of October and is designed to bring awareness to the fact that there are bad actors online and off. By being aware of the fact that online scams exist, you can browse the web more safely, avoiding any financial pitfalls that may come as a result of cybersecurity threats.
4 Key Takeaways from Cybersecurity Month
Although there are some bad actors online, you don’t have to be their next victim. The simple fact is that, by taking steps toward securing your online activities, you can surf the web with the peace of mind that you’re protected.
With that said, here are four key takeaways to remember through the rest of October and any time you surf the web.
Use Strong Passwords
The first thing you can do to protect personal information is to use strong passwords and follow general best practices when you create your passwords. Here are a few tips to help:
- Longer Passwords. Make sure your passwords are long enough that they become nearly impossible to crack. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your passwords are at least eight characters long.
- Use Different Passwords. If you use the same password for all of your online accounts, a hacker only needs to get into one in order to have access to them all. Make sure you use a unique password for each of your online accounts.
- Use Letters, Numbers, and Symbols. Mix up the characters in your passwords by using letters, numbers, and symbols. The more of a mix you have, the more difficult it is for hackers to break into your accounts.
- Don’t Use Obvious Passwords. Stay away from passwords like “Password1,” your birthday, or your username with a random number behind it. Hackers know all the tricks, so take the time to make a unique password.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is relatively new in the realm of cybersecurity, but it’s a powerful tool.
When you enable two-factor authentication, your password isn’t enough to access your online accounts. Instead, after you enter the correct password, the two-factor authentication program sends you an email or text message, typically with a unique code. You’ll need that unique code to access your online account.
So, when you enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts, hackers have to break your password and somehow get their hands on your mobile phone or email inbox to gain access to your accounts.
Update Your Software
No software is perfect. In fact, most pieces of software have holes somewhere in them that may make your information available to hackers.
The good news is that most quality software companies are constantly working to find and fix these vulnerabilities in an attempt to protect their customers. When they do find a vulnerability, they typically fix the issue with a software update.
That means when you wait to install software updates, you’re leaving known vulnerabilities in your software – the type that hackers love to take advantage of.
So, it’s important to update your software any time a provider pings you to let you know an update is available.
Spot & Report Phishing Attempts
Phishing is one of the most common scams online. Con artists create emails and other materials that look like they’re coming from brands you know and trust. They may ask you to update your password or for personal details, you wouldn’t generally give to anyone else. Since the message looks like it’s coming from a trusted brand, it’s easy to fall victim to phishing attempts. Here are a few tips to help you spot them:
- Always look at the sender’s email address to ensure it matches the company the message came from.
- Always look at the URL for any page you end up on after clicking a link to make sure the .com domain name is correct.
- Type the company’s URL in yourself to avoid phishing attempts.
Cybersecurity month may be drawing to a close, but the threats associated with browsing online never stop. Use the four takeaways above to make sure you and your data are safe as you surf the web. Additionally, reference our Fraud Information Center for more helpful tips on protecting your personal information.