New research by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) reveals we feel a lot more cyber safe than we actually are. In fact, last year, one in five American homes were notified of a data breach (with half of those receiving more than one!)…but yet 79 percent still feel safe!
Clearly, something is not adding up—but you can make simple changes and close the gap between perceived safety and reality. October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month so now is a great time to think about how you are protecting your computers, network, and account information from unintended or unauthorized access and changes (or even destruction).
Here are some basic cyber security things you can do to be more secure (no tech degree required!):
Protect your house
Change your router’s password
Let’s say that again: change your router’s password! The NCSA research found that more than 40 percent of those surveyed never changed the factory-set default password on their router—something that can be easily found on the Internet. Please, please reset your password if you haven’t already. Here are some instructions:
- General instructions that should cover many brands of routers
- Linksys brand router instructions
- Netgear router instructions
- D-Link router instructions
Change your router’s name
While you’re in changing the default password, also change the name of your network. The default ID on your router could tip off a cybercriminal to exactly what brand you’re using, giving them a place to start digging for potential passwords or vulnerabilities. (Don’t know what to call your network? We’ve got some inspiration for you.)
Change your router’s security level
If you have it set to WEP (which stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy), it’s not as secure as more updated standards. Select WPA (Wireless Protected Access) or WPA2.
Consider subscribing to an Internet security service
Many providers, including TDS, offer services that help protect the user names, passwords, and payment information for your whole family. Some even sit on the provider’s network and will look for and alert you to security threats such as malware. These “set them and forget them” type of offerings can give you some piece of mind and some real security benefits.
Protect your identity
Be on the alert for spam and phishing attempts
The easiest way for criminals to get your information is to let you tell them—and they can be pretty sneaky about it. Watch out for emails that look real but ask you to reveal account or payment information—they’re probably not legit. Read our tips for How to spot an email phishing scam.
Don’t use bad passwords
You know you shouldn’t, so resist the temptation to make simple, easy-to-guess passwords. Try for at least eight characters, upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. But, importantly, don’t forget to teach your kids about basic password know-how, including things you may take for granted such as:
- Not sharing your password with others
- The importance of having a different and unique password for each online account
- Why you shouldn’t store your passwords by your computer (or on your device)
Protect your kids
Talk to your kids about Internet safety
You talk to your kids about the dangers of cigarettes and drugs—do the same about the dangers of being online. It’s not about scaring kids, it’s about teaching them to be information consumers and critical thinkers about socializing online. Be upfront, be positive, but communicate your values and how to apply those in an online environment.
Freeze your child’s credit or sign them up for an identity protection service
The New York Times recently reported that child identity theft is far from theoretical. Children make attractive targets because their credit reports are clean and the theft may not be detected for months, years, or even decades. You can put a freeze on your child’s credit reports at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion…if your child has a report to freeze. Another approach is to sign up for an identity monitoring and alert service so you’re notified if someone tries to use your child’s identity.
For more resources about staying safe online, visit the StaySafeOnline.org website.
Top image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at Free FreeDigitalPhotos.net