Editor’s note: Ahmad Douglas is Senior Vice President of Global Security Infrastructure at Equifax.
Digital devices and the internet have become a routine part of daily life for many. But have you given any thought to protecting the personal information on those devices? Don’t wait until it falls into the wrong hands. Being proactive is key.
The month of October, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, provides you with an excellent chance to give cybersecurity some thought and evaluate your own digital practices and privacy settings. I’ve heard it called “cyber hygiene,” and that’s a great way to think about it: You can practice good hygiene digitally to stay cyber-healthy, just like you practice good health hygiene to stay physically healthy.
Here are some of my suggestions to help you stay cyber safe.
Social media. Social media can be an information security minefield. Often, user information is left open to anyone who knows where to look; and some advertisements, and phony profiles – some of them “bots,” or internet robots using accounts created using real information — can all pose a risk to users who might fall prey to them.
How can you navigate social media from a security perspective?
— Be careful what you share. Your publicly available information could be used to find answers to security questions; learn your routines and location; or even define a cyberattack target by using your employer or groups you’re a part of. Oversharing on social media increases your risk.
— Use two-factor authentication. This means an extra step to log in, but it makes it more difficult for someone to impersonate you.
— Manage app logins. Some apps allow you to use Facebook or other platforms to sign in. it’s meant to make it more convenient – one less username and password to remember. While opinions vary on the security pros and cons, it’s universally agreed that if you’re using Facebook or another account to log in, it’s important to take a moment to check and see what information you’re sharing with the app. You may need to log out of each app separately
— Review your privacy settings. Configure them to your level of comfort. Periodically review and clean out your friends list or network.
— Set up login notifications. Your social media accounts can notify you when you (or someone else) logs in to your account.
Mobile devices. Mobile devices are a treasure trove of information for a data thief. They also can be easy to hack into, and can be vulnerable targets since they can easily be left behind, lost or stolen. Here are some suggestions to help safeguard your mobile device:
— Activate screen passcodes to unlock your device, or use a biometric (fingerprint or Face ID) to unlock.
— What’s on your lock screen? Sometimes we share more than we should on our lock screen – app notifications, messages and even missed calls. You can configure your phone not to show these when the device is locked.
Laptops. Laptop computers can also be a gold mine for data thieves. Here are some best practices for securing your computer:
— Lock your screen when you step away. If you’re working in a public area, consider using a privacy screen.
— Be aware of “shoulder surfers” wanting to get a peek at passwords or sensitive information on your computer.
— Back up your hard drive periodically, and ensure you have active antivirus and security installed.
On the Go. When you’re traveling or in an otherwise unfamiliar place, here are some guidelines to consider:
— Check for untrusted networks. Don’t have your devices set up to connect to any available WiFi network.
— Do not plug your phone’s USB cable into ports in public places. Instead, plug your USB cable into a USB charger you own, which you can then plug into a power outlet. If the port is hacked or compromised, the data on your phone could be stolen.
— Don’t reveal your travel plans and locations online. Wait until you get home to post those vacation pictures.
Phone and email. Scammers frequently solicit victims through phone calls, or texts. Some things to be aware of:
— Don’t give in to pressure from a caller to take immediate action, and don’t agree to send money if the caller tells you to wire funds or pay with a prepaid debit card or gift card.
— Don’t say anything if a caller begins the call by asking, “Can you hear me?” Scammers may record you saying, “Yes,” then use that recording as proof you agreed to buy something or charge your credit card.
— Don’t click on any links in email messages from unknown senders.
— Don’t send any personal information over text, especially to an unknown sender.
Practicing good cybersecurity hygiene means being aware of potential threats and taking actions such as these so often that they become second nature. Just as healthy habits keep you well, healthy cybersecurity habits can keep you secure.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.