Technology has forever changed the way we live our lives. But as much as technology has made life easier in many ways, it has also made us increasingly vulnerable to criminals, especially when we don’t prioritize cyber security.
Cyber predators are not much different from criminals lurking in dark alleys who wait for the perfect moment to strike their victims. But cyber criminals don’t have to hide in the shadows. Instead, they can utilize computer viruses, keystroke logging programs and spyware to invade innocent people’s privacy, potentially stealing sensitive personal information in an effort to commit fraud that, according to global information services group Experian, has increased three-fold since 2010. But much like street crime can be thwarted, cyber crimes are often preventable as well, especially when men and women take precautionary steps to reduce their risk of identity theft and other cyber crimes.
Set strong passwords and never use the same password for multiple accounts.
Research from Experian found that consumers now have an average of 26 separate online logins but only five different passwords. Regardless of the strength of a password, using the same one for multiple accounts leaves consumers especially vulnerable to cyber criminals, who would only need to figure out one password to gain access to many accounts. When setting a password, make sure it’s strong and does not contain personal information, such as a maiden name or middle name, which criminals can easily access through public records or other accessible avenues. Make sure each account has a separate password, and periodically change those passwords.
Update your software.
Software updates may seem like a nuisance when the window pops up informing you they are available, but updating software, especially antivirus and antisypware, can protect you and anyone using your computer from cyber criminals. In addition, when installing cyber security software updates, these programs will typically scan your computer for any suspect programs or threats since your most recent install, removing any programs deemed suspicious. So while software updates may seem like a nuisance, they might just be your best line of defense against cyber criminals.
Close old accounts
you no longer use.
In its study released in 2012, Experian noted the prevalence of unused online accounts. Unused accounts, whether they are older credit accounts or email addresses that have long since been forgotten, can be used by cyber criminals to open lines of credit in your name. In fact, many people don’t realize they’re victims of such crimes until they apply for new credit and are turned down because of unpaid debts they never even knew had been accrued. Close any accounts you no longer use and confirm that such accounts are officially closed before forgetting about them.
Never open unknown attachments or click
on unknown links.
Opening unknown attachments or clicking on links to web sites you don’t recognize can put your personal information at risk, as such actions might be triggering the installation of viruses or spyware on your computer, tablet or smartphone. If you don’t recognize a link or aren’t expecting any email attachments, ignore them.