Last month was Cybersecurity Month and in today’s digital age you really do have to be aware and on guard if you want to keep your identity and private information secure. But, unless you want to unplug everything you own that’s connected to the Internet and remove yourself from the digital landscape altogether, you’re going to need a little info and some solid cybersecurity tips to help keep you protected. Lucky for you, I’m here to dish out some awesome security tips so you can make every month Cybersecurity Month.
Tips for keeping passwords secure
Everything needs a password today. From all your streaming services to your email and bank accounts, it’s likely you can’t get through a single day without having to type in a dozen or more passwords just to access stuff so you can get work done or entertain yourself. But, if you are one of those folks using “password” or “123456” as your secret access code… you need some serious advice about cybersecurity.
You should never use simple, easy-to-guess words or number combinations as your password. Hackers just love it when you do that, as it makes it simple for them to gain access to your accounts. Instead, use passwords with both lower and uppercase characters, and throw in a special character or two or numerals, as well. And once you create that hard-to-guess, totally unique password, for gosh sakes don’t use it for multiple accounts. That’s just asking for trouble.
Instead, you could do what I do, which is use one hard-to-guess password as the basis for all my other passwords. For instance, let’s say my base password is “b@tm@n”. For my streaming TV service, I would use something like “streamb@tm@n” as the password. For my banking? I would use something like “bankb@tm@n”. Yes, my strategy is not entirely as secure as using a completely new and unique password for everything, but I’m old and my memory is not what it used to be, so this is the trick I use to help me to remember the ba-zillion passwords I keep stored in my noggin.
Tips for smart home cybersecurity
In the age of “the Internet of things” there are so many smart devices in our homes that connect to the world wide web, ranging from our virtual assistants like Google Home to lightbulbs, door locks, TVs and other appliances. The biggest mistake most people make with these devices is not changing the default password. Each of these smart home devices already comes with a password out of the box, so users can access settings during the initial device setup. Change that sucker as soon as you possibly can. Seriously, hackers love people who leave the default password, as it makes it super easy to access your device and network. There are tons of video streaming sites that actually show home security or nanny cam live videos from people who left the default password on securing device.
Tips for email cybersecurity
Email is where a lot of people can get tripped up quite easily when it comes to cybersecurity. It’s really simple for a hacker to send emails that look remarkably like official emails from your bank or other institution (known as “phishing”). As with anything these days, you need to practice caution when opening any emails from strangers. If you get an email from your bank that seems suspicious, don’t click on any links. Instead, call your bank and ask about the legitimacy of the email, especially if they are asking for personal information of account details “for verification” that could compromise your identity or accounts.
Tips for smartphone cybersecurity
Pretty much everyone you know has a smartphone. They are the crucial accessory that nobody wants to forget at home, and they are often used to scam people out of their private information or hard-earned cash. I’m sure you’re no stranger to those types of calls, right? The ones where a guy named “Bob” (whose laboured English and thick accent tells you his name is probably not really Bob) from Microsoft, Dell or some other well-known computer-related entity rings you up to tell you that there is a virus on your computer. He offers to help if you either give him a credit card number or let him install software on your system. Either way, he wants some info that he can use to steal from you or use your computer for nefarious reasons. The same goes for calls from your bank, “police” or Revenue Canada. Often the guy on the other end will demand you make a payment (for your crime or overdue tax bill) by purchasing iTunes Gift Cards and reading the activation numbers over the phone.
Honestly, do you think the actual police or Revenue Canada would take iTunes cards as payment? Yeah, not likely. So, if you get a call about viruses, taxes, your bank account or your impending arrest, be critical and question everything. Also, if you are in doubt, verify things by making a call to the real institutions (and not a number the scammers provide). Once you’ve established that someone is a scammer, go to your phone’s settings and block that number asap so you don’t have to keep fielding annoying calls from Bob anymore.
Lastly, if you haven’t already enabled your smartphone’s built-in security features, such as a code or fingerprint for unlocking, then do so immediately. If you misplace your phone and it isn’t locked, then anyone can browse through your device and glean lots of personal info that could compromise your identity or bank accounts.
Backup & update your devices for cybersecurity
Another easy way to keep your digital life more secure is to ensure that all your devices and especially your computer are all up to date in terms of software. Developers usually release frequent software updates in an effort to fix bugs and close holes in security. So, if you haven’t run the updater for your computer in a while, I would highly recommend doing so right away, or else you risk a hacker taking advantage of a security flaw in old software to steal your stuff.
It is also a great cybersecurity idea to regularly backup the critical information on your computer. That way, if your system gets compromised or hackers steal or lock away your data, you still have a backup of everything and can mitigate the potential damage.
Do you have any other awesome cybersecurity tips to share with Best Buy blog readers? Make sure to add them in the comment section below so we can all be a little safer during cybersecurity month and every month of the year.