This post is the latest in our series of deep dives into cybersecurity steps each of us can take to better safeguard ourselves against vulnerabilities online. Check out the first installment here.
Maintaining your security in an increasingly digital world is not easy. Cybercriminals know this, and they stand ready to take advantage of people not paying attention when it matters most. That’s why we continue to partner with Neal O’Farrell, one of the world’s original security and privacy experts, for the latest in expert guidance. A few simple changes to your routine can go a long way in protecting against many of the most common types of cyberattacks.
Here are five practices you can adopt to enhance your cybersecurity today.
Check your accounts to look for suspicious activity.
While you likely log in to your primary bank account and commonly-used credit cards regularly to make sure everything is in good shape, it’s important to keep tabs on all of your sensitive accounts. Of course, financially-centered log-ins are especially critical, but it’s also essential to sign in to email and other services you may use less frequently to monitor activity and ensure nothing looks amiss.
Be careful about what websites you visit.
Sure, you know not to enter sensitive information on an obviously questionable website, but the truth is that even visiting a dubious website can cause certain types of malware to infect your device. What’s more, cybercriminals are becoming more and more sophisticated, creating very convincing duplicates. Often your browser will alert you to a suspicious or insecure site, but not always – and cybercriminals are constantly developing new workarounds.
Here are things you can look for to determine whether a website is legitimate:
- Check the URL
Make sure the name is spelled correctly (such as google and not g00gle with two zeros) and that the URL starts with https://, which makes it harder for third parties to intercept information.
- Look for poor grammar or misspellings
- Beware of intrusive ads or automatic redirects
- Verify the site’s credentials by entering the URL on who.is or Google’s Safe Browsing Transparency Report
Install antivirus software.
In the event malware does find its way to your device, appropriate antivirus software protection is essential to scout out, isolate, and eliminate damaging attacks. Neal O’Farrell likes Sophos and AVG for their beneficial combination of advanced protection and user simplicity, but there are many reputable offerings that may suit your needs. Whatever service you choose, be sure it’s a reputable, subscription-based model that provides automatic real-time updates to detect the latest threats.
Enable two-factor authentication when available.
Two-factor authentication is becoming more and more common, as it requires users to engage in second verification to identify themselves. This second step of security employs some combination of the three generally-recognized factors of recognition – something you know (like a password), something you have (typically your cell phone), and something you are (such as a fingerprint). In many cases, extra authentication is a simple numeric code, sent by text to your cell phone, which can only be used once.
When two-factor authentication is enabled, a password alone is not enough to access protected information – which in turn makes it more difficult for a cybercriminal if they only have this commonly-stolen asset. Many companies you rely on daily (Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, Paypal, social media platforms) offer – and sometimes require – the protection of two-factor authentication, and the list is always growing. If it’s offered, you should use it.
Freeze your (and your children’s) credit.
A 2018 law made it possible for any consumer to freeze and unfreeze their credit as desired without cost. By freezing your credit, you restrict access to your credit file so potential creditors cannot access this information. So, even if a criminal does get enough of your personal data to open an account, they’ll essentially be unable to do so. What’s more, parents and guardians can freeze the credit of a child under 16. To freeze credit, complete a request with each credit reporting bureau – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Once the freeze is in place, reporting bureaus cannot give any credit information about you – whether for opening new credit cards or accounts, buying a car or home, entering into a rental or purchase agreement, or authorizing a credit check – so should you decide to enter into such a transaction you will have to lift the freeze temporarily. Otherwise, the freeze stays in place until you remove it.
Credit freezes do not affect your credit. They also do not protect against credit thieves accessing existing accounts, so even with a freeze in place, you still need to monitor all bank, credit card, and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.
In addition or in place of a credit freeze, you can opt-in to a one-year fraud alert with each credit reporting bureau, which notifies potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name in case someone is using your information without your consent.
Securing yourself against cyber threats takes time, effort, and attention. It’s not easy. Criminals know this and count on careless with our digital footprint as their opportunity to strike. Taking an extra moment to implement safety measures goes a long way toward protecting yourself against the damage a potential misstep can cause.
Bartlett takes cybersecurity seriously. Neal O’Farrell, one of the world’s original security and privacy experts (and one of the few with more than a decade of experience working with affluent and high net worth consumers and their families) helped develop Bartlett’s Cybersecurity Education Center, a comprehensive website that offers a wide variety of resources to improve cybersecurity, including tips, security guides, videos, and self audits, and more. We hope you will access these resources to learn more about how to improve your cybersecurity, and share this valuable information with family, friends, business and social connections, employees, and anyone else you know.