Chances are, you spend a lot of time online working, paying bills, keeping up with friends and family on social media and many more tasks and activities. In fact, the average American spends 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day! As your online activity grows, through, so does your risk of being the target of cyber crime. The good news is that studies show that nearly 90 percent of all cyber attacks can be easily prevented with some simple safeguards.
Malware is one of the biggest threats. That’s malicious software designed to gain access to a network, find sensitive data and steal that data. There are various types of malware, including spyware, viruses, worms, and any type of malicious code that infiltrates a computer. Once malware is installed, it can allow hackers to extract private and sensitive data whenever they wish.
To hep prevent malware, don’t click on links or open attachments in e-mails that you aren’t 100% sure are legitimate. This is one of the most common ways hackers gain access to computer systems. Generally be wary of e-mails containing attachments. If you are suspicious of what you are being asked to view or install, don’t do it. Watch what you’re clicking on everywhere you go online. Don’t click on any links that you see on social media unless they are in content from legitimate sources. Also, know that flash drives can unknowingly contain malicious code.
Long and strong passwords with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols are important, too. Set a specific timeline — such as every three months — for changing your passwords. Security measures also are important. Install anti-virus/malware software, firewalls and anti-ransomware, keep it up to date and run regular scans. Don’t let updates to your operating system, browsers and plugins pile up. Updates often address security vulnerabilities that have been discovered, so it’s important those are completed in a timely manner.
Lastly, be cautious about using public wi-fi to access accounts containing private or sensitive data. If you use an unsecured network to log into an account, someone else may be able to see what you see and what you send. That person could then log in as you. Two-factor authorization, which typically involves a code being sent to your mobile phone during the login process as an added security measure, is an additional step that can help make your accounts more secure. If you regularly access online accounts through public wi-fi, you also may want to consider using a virtual private network, or VPN. VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the Internet, making it much more difficult for someone to hack into your accounts.