Finding Cybersecurity in a Digital World

What you need to know about cybersecurity

Illustration of two men hacking digital information on laptop iStock

A problem that’s becoming more common

With each passing year, more and more people fall victim to identity theft and credit card fraud. One of the most common ways is through the tricks criminals use to get people to give them access to personal information on their browsers or the sites they use every day. The best way you can protect yourself against cyberthreats is by familiarizing yourself with some simple security tips to help keep you safe.

What’s phishing?

Phishing is when someone pretends to be a trusted source and tricks their victim into clicking a link in a message, email or text that then downloads malicious software known as malware. To deceive you, the cybercriminal may use an email address or a URL that appears authentic but has a changed letter, symbol or number. Never click on an unsolicited or suspicious link, and always check the email address of the sender. If you suspect your computer has been infected with malware (it’s sluggish, for example, and bombards you with pop-up ads), take it to an IT professional as soon as possible to resolve the problem. Don’t make any purchases or visit password-protected sites until you do.

What are warning signs of identity theft?

  • Unfamiliar transactions appearing on your credit card accounts
  • Denied credit or loan applications
  • Missing mail
  • Debt collectors calling you about purchases you didn’t make

How to create a more secure password

You may have heard that all your online passwords should be different, and all should be hard to guess. You probably also know to never use your pet’s name, your child’s name or anything else that a fraudster could easily find, like your address, phone number or birthdate.

Illustration of user name and password
Illustration of fishing line and hook

Here are more password creation strategies, recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology:

  • Don’t rely on passwords alone to protect anything you value. Turn on multifactor authentication wherever possible.
  • Use a phrase with multiple words that you can picture in your head so it’s difficult to guess but easy to remember.
  • Protect your most important accounts—such as your bank accounts and primary email account—by giving each a unique passphrase. An online password manager can help.

What’s multifactor authentication?

Also called strong authentication, banking and financial institutions often use this technology to protect sensitive data. It requires two or more methods of authentication from independent sources to verify a user’s identity—typically a password as well as a call, email or text containing a code. The three authentication factors are something you know (such as a password or PIN), something you have (such as an authenticator on a smartphone) and something you are (such as your biometric fingerprint or face).

What’s a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) adds a layer of security and privacy to your online activity. It creates an encrypted path for your data and hides your IP address, allowing you to use public Wi-Fi hot spots safely. A VPN extension can protect data in your browser and the privacy of all your devices’ traffic. Most VPNs can be installed and set up in a few minutes, but make sure the VPN you use is from a trusted provider.

Protect your credit card online.

According to research group, a typical year sees thieves hack into more than 150,000 U.S.-based credit card accounts, whether in a phishing scam, via a data breach or even by rifling through people’s trash. Here are some ways to protect your credit card information when doing business online:

Make sure you’re dealing with a verified merchant.
Before you make a purchase or provide any information, do a quick online search. Check the Better Business Bureau and reviews on social media.

Illustration of hacker taking credit card

Use a safe, private connection.

Just as you should hesitate to join a low-security Wi-Fi network, you should also think twice before using your credit card on one. Keep your devices and Wi-Fi secure by using tools such as a virtual private network (VPN) and multifactor authentication. Before entering your credit card data, look for “https” and the lock symbol at the top of the browser window.

Use a third-party payment system.

You can avoid entering your credit card information altogether by paying with a third-party app such as PayPal or Venmo.

Take our identity theft quiz

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