Protecting your personal information and practicing your own cyber security

Keep yourself cyber safe

As you shop and make charitable donations online this year, it’s more important than ever to be vigilant and cautious with your personal online security.  Arm yourself with the information to keep you cyber safe and protected from online fraud.

Creating strong passwords

Creating secure and unique passwords along with using different usernames and email addresses for registrations across online services can help keep you protected. Cybercriminals are savvy, and may engage in large-scale automated cyber-attacks where they test different usernames and passwords (credentials) on legitimate websites (email, financial, social media etc.) to access accounts and obtain valuable information about users. This is called "credential stuffing," and this type of attack may have far-reaching consequences for those affected.  In addition to obtaining your personal or financial information, once cybercriminals learn your credentials on one site, they may try to use those same credentials on other sites.  If you have the same username and password across online accounts you may be more susceptible to becoming a target of this type of cyber-attack.  You want to make sure you are creating a strong password, unique for every site, to protect yourself from cyber-attacks.  Here are some password best practices:

  • User passwords that are at least eight characters, but longer is recommended.  Longer passwords are harder to hack.
  • Choose use a unique password for each each account and never share them.
  • Avoid using your Social Security number, account numbers, phone numbers or addresses, birth dates or anniversaries, obvious or common nicknames, names of relatives or pets, any personal information, including personal preferences, such as favorite sports team, and common words from the dictionary.
  • Change your passwords immediately if you suspect that it has been compromised.
  • Consider using a password manager where you keep all your passwords. A password manager can be a plug-in (special program) that comes with your computer, or a small device where you can save passwords and store them in a secure place.

Staying safe on social media

As we are more digitally interconnected than ever, social media has become an important communication tool, so staying safe on social media has never been more important. When not managed properly, it can provide personal information to cyber criminals that can easily be exploited to engage in fraud and other dangerous crimes. When communicating on social media, you and your family should actively manage the security and privacy of your information.

  • Do not post personal information, such as addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, and you or your family members’ full names on social media, and create usernames that are different from your name.
  • Avoid oversharing: Cyber criminals and other threat actors are savvy. They can easily pull together different pieces of information that you post and use them to craft malicious emails, or create fictitious sites tailored to your interests to trick you into clicking on malicious content.
  • Check privacy settings on all of your social media accounts; keep your pages and information as private as possible. For example, check that your Facebook page is viewed only by your Facebook friends and that it is not public on the Web. Often these settings are under "Security," "Privacy," "Tools," "Settings," and "Advanced." 
  • Be aware that once you post content online, you have a social media footprint and can no longer control that content. Even if you are privacy- and security- conscious, you have no control over the behavior of others. Your friends may not be cybersecurity savvy and can share what you post.

Safe online shopping

Like anything else you do on the Internet, when you shop online you open yourself to the perils of cyber space. It is important to actively manage your behavior and keep your personal and financial information secure for safe online shopping.

  • Buy from reputable and secure sellers and services: Use well-known shopping portals or the official websites and applications of brands/stores. Online shopping sites should be Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)-encrypted to protect the transmission of your financial information. Verify this by looking for https or the padlock icon.
  • For each shopping website you use, set strong, unique multi-character (at least eight characters) passwords and, if offered, set up 2-factor/2-step authorization.
  • Keep your personal and payment information safe: Avoid storing your credit card/payment information on websites for later use.
  • Monitor your bank statements for fraudulent charges and immediately report suspicious activities to your bank or credit card company.
  • Use secure personal devices and networks to protect payment data.

 

child using a laptop computer

Online safety for children

  • Set up some form of parental control on the browsers of your family’s desktops, laptops, and mobile phones, and block access to certain websites. 
  • Set parental controls on your family’s mobile devices. Your own mobile provider may provide a suite of applications where you can monitor online behavior, block downloading certain applications, and track your child’s location via their mobile phone.
  • Be aware of online games where kids may share personal information and consider monitoring access to those as well.
  • Overall, teach children to avoid “befriending” strangers online. Their online friends should be “real-life” friends who they already know.
  • Once they join social media or other online sites, teach your children how to manage those account settings, and to actively manage their friends and followers lists. Follow the suggestions for online safety for children offered by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Other ways to protect your information online

Learn more about fraud protection

By educating yourself on common scams, you'll be more prepared to protect yourself from fraud.

Looking to cyber-secure your business?

Businesses are vulnerable to cyber threats and have unique cyber security needs.

Protect yourself from Identity Theft

Knowing ways scammers try to steal your personal information and identity is the first step in preventing it.