These days, most cybercriminals are after one thing: Money. They either want to steal your money directly – drain your bank account, sell your stocks, claim your tax refund – or they want to get personal information about you that ultimately nets them more money – like your medical records. They tend to be opportunistic, which means they’re looking for the easiest people to hack and what requires the least amount of time and resources.
Of course, nobody wants to be the victim of cybercrime. But sometimes, we unknowingly put ourselves at risk with the things we do – or don’t do – online every day. Better protecting yourself online doesn’t require a lot of time or money, but it does mean changing some of your online habits.
If you want to make yourself less hackable and reduce the chance of being a victim of cybercrime, here are 5 online habits we recommend making a part of your daily routine:
Ignore unknown phone calls. Your bank, the IRS, the Social Security Administration, your online brokerage, reputable software companies… What do all these organizations have in common? They will never, ever call you asking for your sensitive information, your passwords, or to install security software on your computer. If someone is calling you and putting pressure on you to take action “or else!”, you can be confident it is a scam. Just hang up, or better yet, don’t answer in the first place.
Keep a clean machine. We get it. Everyone wants to try out the new hot smartphone game or download that cool productivity app you heard about. Generally, with a bit of online research, you can confirm that you’re downloading safe software from reputable companies. But keeping a clean machine also means periodically checking the addons or extensions installed in your browser and uninstalling any you’re no longer using or don’t recall downloading. Same goes for apps on your phone. If you find evidence of malware, be sure to completely wipe your device – this is when it’s a good idea to call a professional computer technician to ensure all traces of malware are really gone.
Keep a low profile online. Social media is wonderful for keeping up with friends, family, and colleagues near and far. Unfortunately, you can also find yourself oversharing. Be careful about what you post and when. Don’t alert would-be thieves that you’re out of town for a week. Don’t share details that could be used to impersonate you, guess your passwords (see the next tip), or social engineer more information out of you. Be selective about who you accept as a friend and take advantage of privacy settings.
Use random, long passwords. Strong, unique passwords for all your accounts will go a long way toward protecting you from unauthorized access. That way, even if an online service experiences a data breach, that one leaked password won’t allow would-be hackers to log in to your other, perhaps more valuable, online accounts. A password manager gives you a safe place to store passwords, generates strong ones, and fills them for you when you need to log in.
Turn on multifactor authentication. A layered defense is a strong defense. Multifactor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) ensures that even if a password is stolen, someone still can’t log in to your account without a second piece of information. It could be a code generated from an app on your phone or texted to you. MFA is widely supported on social media, online banking, ecommerce, email, financial management, and more. Check out the security settings of your most valuable accounts and turn on MFA wherever you can.