By: FJY Financial
Cybercrimes are on the rise. Do you feel like the only real defense against sophisticated hackers is to cross your fingers and hope you don’t become a victim? The pros who fight identity theft and other cybercrimes know otherwise. Despite the proliferation of digital dangers to consumers and investors, there are practical steps you can take that offer serious protection.
The Scope of the Problem
No doubt, the dark side is thriving online. The chart below presents statistics gathered by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network. The FTC tracks consumer fraud and identity theft complaints filed with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and private organizations.
In 2018, the FTC received some three million identity theft and fraud reports. Americans lost $1.48 billion to consumer fraud alone. Note that while the total number of reports dropped between 2015 and 2017, reports are once again on the rise.
(1) Percentages are based on the total number of Consumer Sentinel Network reports by calendar year. These figures exclude “Do Not Call” registry complaints.
Source: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Sentinel Network.
Cybercriminals become more sophisticated every day, but so does the toolbox of defense measures available to protect your identity and your money. The tips below are the first in a two-part series.
Top Five Computer Security Tips
We begin with cybercrime expert and Retired FBI Special Agent Jeff Lanza’s top security tips. Look for more details on each of these tips throughout the series.
- Do not download anything to your computer that you were not expecting to transfer when you got online. Be particularly wary of pop-ups and suspicious emails that contain links.
- Keep your software current with the latest updates. The operating system updates issued by both Microsoft and Apple help guard your computer against the latest cyber threats. Go to your machine’s settings page and select automatic updates to keep you current without reminders.
- Back up your files, so you can recover if your computer is compromised.
- Consider adding an additional layer of security to protect your computer against malware. Malwarebytes is a free software program that searches for and destroys malware that evades your perimeter antivirus program.
- Use strong passphrases (the 2019 version of passwords). Explained further below.
Take Care Out There
When you go online, stack the cyber safety deck in your favor by thwarting criminals from the get-go.
- Use two-factor authentication. Experts highly recommend this procedure—also known as two-step verification—to prevent your account from being highjacked. Use a password and a PIN code to log in to online accounts. The website sends a PIN only when it needs to verify your identity, e.g., when you log in from a different device or IP address.
- Do not get tricked into giving up your login credentials. Never access a login page from an email or pop-up—instead, type in the site name yourself.
- Make sure the site address accurately represents the website you desire. Before you enter information, check that the address begins with “https” (the most secure website URL prefix). After you verify the site address, store it in your browser’s bookmarks or favorites.
Protect Your Online Accounts
A passphrase is a password composed of stringing words together. This technique, the new government recommendation to protect online accounts, makes the passphrase easier to create and remember. To create a strong passphrase:
- Use at least 12 characters. The longer, the better.
- If a website requires upper/lower case letters, a number, and/or special characters (the old government standard), add those to the passphrases you create.
- Use a different passphrase for each online account. Much fraud results from victims reusing passphrases.
Lanza emphasizes that length is the key to creating strong passphrases and offers the following example:
Now that you know how to sign on safely, stay tuned for Part 2 to discover the software and procedures that will build a cyber fortress to protect your computers and mobile devices.
Meanwhile, rest assured that FJY provides our clients with a robust, two-factor authentication online portal for access to account information on-demand, 24/7. Our secure document vault allows us to easily and safely pass confidential information back and forth.