Cyber Security Tips to Keep You Safe Online

Cyber Security Tips to Keep You Safe Online

A young adult typing on their personal computerThe holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for online shopping. And this year it’s more important than ever before to protect your personal data. That’s why we’ve compiled the following collection of cyber security tips and best practices for our clients and neighbors in North Central, MA. As your local insurance agent, we have a responsibility to help keep you safe, whether you are shopping online from the comfort of your living room or working remotely at the Central Cup in Leominster.

You’ve all heard about the massive data breaches that happen every day, most recently from Capital One and Equifax. But just how big is the US cyber security problem? According to a 2018 study by Juniper Research, cybercriminals are expected to steal an estimated 33 billion records in 2023 — that compares to 12 billion records in 2018. These records include personal information you share with various online entities, which could include your name, address, credit card info, or Social Security number. On top of that, nearly 60 million Americans have been affected by identity theft, according to a 2018 online survey by The Harris Poll.

So how can you protect yourself and your family from falling victim to one of these cyber security breaches? Here are 10 tips that we hope will help you to avoid a personal cyber security crime against you:

1. Understand, it Can Happen to You

Realize that you are an attractive target to hackers. Don’t ever say “It won’t happen to me.”

2. Use Strong Passwords

Eight characters is not enough — practice good password management.

  • Use a strong mix of characters
  • Do not use the same password for multiple sites
  • Do not share your password with others
  • Do not write it down

3. Avoid Leaving Devices Unattended

Working in coffee shops and other public spaces has become quite popular for remote employees. Avoid leaving your computer, phone, or tablet unattended for any length of time.

If you have to leave a device unattended for any reason, no matter how short, lock it up so no one can use it while you’re gone. If you keep sensitive information on a flash drive or external hard drive, make sure it’s password protected.

4. Practice Safe Clicking

Always be careful when clicking on attachments or links in emails and on social media. If something is unexpected or seems suspicious for any reason, don’t click on it. Hackers use spam emails, “free” offers, click bait, online quizzes, etc. to entice you to click on dangerous links and or give up your personal information. Always be wary of offers that sound too good to be true and never divulge personal information on suspicious sites.

Double check the URL of a website in links. Secure websites should start with https:// rather than http://. Fraudulent websites will often have spelling mistakes in them or try to imitate legitimate sites by changing one letter in the URL.

Your browser will usually give you an indication of the safety of a website. To check a site’s security, to the left of the web address, there should be an icon that indicates its security status:

  • = Secure. The info you send or get through this website is private.
  • = Info or Not secure. The site isn’t using a private connection. Someone might be able to see or change the information you send or get through this site.
  • = Not secure. Proceed with caution. Something is severely wrong with the privacy of this site’s connection. Someone might be able to see the information you send or get through this site.

5. Browse Safe

Sensitive browsing, such as banking or shopping, should only be done on a device that belongs to you, on a network that you trust. Avoid accessing sensitive sites that hold a lot of your data on devices you do not own or in spaces with open public Wi-Fi, such as coffee shops.

6. Stay On Top Of Your Accounts

Make sure to regularly monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity. If you see something unfamiliar or suspicious, it could be a sign that you’re cyber security has been compromised.

7. Avoid Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are fake emails that often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment that can compromise your data. They often say things like:

  • They’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts
  • Claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information
  • Say you must confirm some personal information
  • Include a fake invoice
  • Prompt you to click on a link to make a payment
  • Say you’re eligible to receive some sort of refund/reimbursement
  • Offer a coupon for free goods/services

All of these tactics are an attempt to direct you to a fraudulent landing page and or dupe you into handing over your personal data under the guise of something as inconspicuous as asking you to confirm your password for an account. Reputable companies will almost never ask you to divulge personal data over email.

8. Don’t Store Your Credit Card Information Online

It can seem highly convenient to store credit card information on your computer for quick purchases or mobile ordering — however, storing credit and debit card information online removes one more line of security between your information and hackers. Avoid storing this information online to further protect your money.

9. Keep Software Up To Date

Keep all your software updated so you have the latest security patches. Turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to think about it, and make sure that your security software is set to run regular scans.

10. Install Antivirus Software + Malware

Make sure you have the latest antivirus software and malware installed on your laptop to avoid cyber attacks on your personal information. Install a Firewall. Taking the proper precautions when it comes to anti-virus software and malware will ensure your devices do not fall victim to a virus or hack due to out of date software.

Have more questions about cyber security? An ABM insurance agent is happy to help. Contact us at one of our four convenient Massachusetts locations at (978) 534-2800 (Leominster), (978) 632-1098 (Gardner), (978) 874-2921 (Westminster), (978) 464-5857 (Princeton) or visit our website to request a free quote.

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