Every two seconds someone becomes a victim of identity theft. Last year, there were over 14 million victims of identity theft and fraud. Are you one of those 14 million? The past few years we have seen a record number of breaches. Phishing emails are getting more and more convincing, and hackers are constantly finding new ways to breach our personal information. What can you do to protect yourself? I am going to share our top tips on creating your own personal cybersecurity system.
Let’s start with your email. We share it every time we sign up for an email newsletter, buy something online and even when we want to get a recipe off a website. You may not care if someone hacks your yelp account or Pinterest boards, but I am sure the same cannot be said for your bank or social media accounts. To protect yourself, you need to create a separate, secret email. It should be one that is not tied to your name or other identifying information. Use it ONLY for accounts that you want to protect. If your primary email is hacked, you know they don’t have access to your financial accounts.
Having a separate email address isn’t enough though, we need to add an additional layer of protection. That extra layer is a relatively new trend in online security called two-step verification or multi-factor authentication. You should add it to any account that offers it. Each time you sign into your account a code is sent to your phone that you must use to complete logging in. A hacker might be able to figure out your username and password, but the likelihood that they also have access to your phone is minimal.
One of the biggest threats today is a strain of malware called ransomware which kidnaps your computer and holds it for ransom. This is done through phishing emails, and they are getting more convincing every day. A phishing email is one that tries to impersonate a company or person you know. For example, I recently received an email from “Amazon” that wanted me to verify my account. By following the steps below, I was able to determine that it was not from amazon.
Examine the message. Is it using a subject line that is urgent? Hackers often use language like “Your response needed” or “Verification needed urgently” as scare tactics. Does the message start with madam or sir? Is there poor grammar or spelling? These are indications that it may be spam.
Inspect the links. Hover over the email address to see who it is really from. Do the same with any links the email is directing you to. If it looks suspicious, delete it. You can always contact the organization directly to ask if they sent you the email.
Adding more secrecy and practicing mindfulness are the keys to your personal cybersecurity system. I encourage you to take an extra minute to examine and inspect your emails to protect your personal and
financial information. Schedule a meeting with us to learn about what precautions we take to protect your finances at FIT.
Bailey, Sean M. and Devin Kropp. Hack-Proof Your Life Now!. 2nd ed., Horsesmouth, 2019