Everyone tries to follow online safety best-practices, but let’s face it, sometimes we simply get it wrong. It’s not that we intend to take risks, it’s just that we either forgot or don’t know the right thing to do.

For example, maybe you’re guilty of …

  • Donating to a random disaster or COVID relief fund request you received over email
  • Not updating your default device passwords or running security updates
  • Just clicking OK on those mobile app security and privacy notices

These all may seem innocent enough, but they could mean you’re inadvertently breaking the security rules. Since it’s Cybersecurity Month it’s a great time to brush up on your security know-how—particularly with so many of us now working and learning at due to COVID.

With help from Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Agency advice we have gathered a list of five common security mistakes how to fix them, along with a few bonus tips:

1. An unsecured Wi-Fi network. And if you’re still using the factory-set default password and username, it’s not secure. Factory defaults are widely available to find on the internet and on the dark corners of the web. Your home’s wireless router is the primary entrance for cybercriminals to access all of your connected devices so it’s important to have a unique password and username. Get easy tips for how to do it right here.

2. Declining multi-factor authentication. Two locks is better than one! Double you login protection by enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you. Use it for email, banking, social media, and any other service that requires logging in. If MFA is an option, enable it by using a trusted mobile device such as your smartphone, an authenticator app, or a secure token—a small physical device that can hook onto your key ring. Read the Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) How-to-Guide for more information.

3. Connecting without protecting. Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, game device, or other network devices, the best defense is to update to the latest security software, web browser, and operating systems. If you have the option to enable automatic updates to defend against the latest risks, turn it on. Other tips:

  • Before using a USB for an external hard drive, make sure your device’s security software scans for viruses and malware.
  • Protect your devices with antivirus software and be sure to periodically back up any data that cannot be recreated such as photos or personal documents. Hot tip: an easy way to do both is to subscribe to automatic services such as an online file backup service and there’s also TDS’ own Internet Security.

4. Ignoring your apps. Most connected appliances, toys, and devices are supported by a mobile application. Your mobile device could have lots of apps running in the background or using default permissions you never realized you approved—gathering your personal information without your knowledge while also putting your identity and privacy at risk. What’s the solution?

  • Check your app permissions to delete those you don’t need or no longer use.
  • Learn to just say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense.
  • Only download apps from trusted vendors and sources.

5. Oversharing on social media. Limit what information you post on social media—from personal addresses to where you like to grab coffee. What many people don’t realize is that these seemingly random details are all that criminals need to know to target you, your loved ones, and your physical belongings—online and in the real world. Of course also keep Social Security numbers, account numbers, and passwords private, but consider:

  • Not sharing your full name, address, birthday, and even vacation plans.
  • Disabling location services that allow anyone to see where you are—and where you aren’t—at any given time.

Bonus tips!

  • Practice safe web surfing wherever you are by checking for the “green lock” or padlock icon in your browser bar—this signifies a secure connection.
  • When you find yourself out in the great “wild Wi-Fi West,” avoid free Internet access with no encryption.
  • If you do use an unsecured public access point, practice good Internet hygiene by avoiding sensitive activities (e.g., banking) that require passwords or credit cards. Your personal hotspot is often a safer alternative to free Wi-Fi.
  • Don’t reveal personally identifiable information such as your bank account number, SSN, or date of birth to unknown sources.
  • Type website URLs directly into the address bar instead of clicking on links or cutting and pasting from the email.

Stay safe out there!

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