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How Much Cyber Security Do You Really Need?

Have you ever had a car (that was so old and so worthless) that you were tempted to leave the keys in the ignition so that it would get stolen? On the flip side, if you have a nice car, you’re going to hang onto those keys, aren’t you? Well, in both the real world and the online world, there are people who would take your hard-earned money and belongings. Some of them may even try to talk you into handing them your keys. That’s why it’s so important to be cyber security savvy.

You need as much cyber security as you need

How savvy you need to be about cyber security is going to depend on a lot of factors.

For example, if you’re Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec, you’re probably appalled that your name is even appearing online. That’s assuming any of your coworkers even tells you, though, because your goal is to stay off the internet altogether.

On the other hand, if you’re a normal human being, you’ve got online bank access, at least one email address (probably several!), and all sorts of social media accounts. What’s at stake? Your identity. And if it’s your business, then that’s at stake, too.

So let’s go over some of the cyber security buzzwords – and what you can do to be safe online.

Start with the basics: build a strong profile and an even stronger password

First off, start by using a strong password. Oh, and don’t use “password” – that’s one of the first things hackers try. Use something you’ll remember that’s hard to guess – and throw in memorable symbols, numbers, and vary between upper and lower case.

Here’s what we’ve seen some tinfoil hat types recommend: use the first (or third) letter in every word from a favorite song’s refrain. It’s random, easy (okay, easier!) to remember, and unique. Or, set up some kind of password scheme that keeps each password unique but easy to remember.

Some advanced cyber security tips

Ever been prompted to set up a security question or a two-step authorization? Yeah, go ahead and set those up. If someone is able to hack your username and password, they’ll get stuck right there – without being able to access your account.

Set up alerts. Many financial institutions offer text, email, or even app notifications. Some let you set it up for suspicious charges – or even every charge. But having that notification could be the difference between a small bump in the road – or a huge hassle.

Use secure networks. If you look at the beginning of a URL, it should have a locked padlock symbol and start with https://. If it doesn’t have that s on the end, it’s not secure. In other words, if you’re on a public WiFi or hot spot, that’s not a safe site to browse. Stick to safe, secure websites that use https://.

How to recognize and avoid common cyber security breaches

There’s an awful lot of scams out there to avoid. The best way to spot a scam? If it’s too good to be true, it probably is a scam. So if some long-lost prince asks to send you several million dollars to keep safe from his maniacal step-parent, don’t give out your information.

Here are some of common types of cyber scams to watch out for:

  • Phishing is a hacker’s attempt to get your username, passwords, or financial information. They usually send you a message, pretending to be a reputable source (like your bank), and send you a link to a click on. The website may look similar to the real thing. Be sure to double check any link before you click on it – and make sure it’s the actual website URL. When in doubt, just open a new window and go directly to the website without clicking the link.
  • Social engineering has cost US businesses over $2 billion dollars as of 2016. The most common social engineering scam is an email from a faked CEO account to the finance department, asking for a payment or personal information. If you doubt an email or a PO, ask the CEO directly.
  • Malware and spyware are everywhere. They exist to create a vulnerability in your computer system. That way, they can track where you go, capture keystrokes hit, gather passwords and all sorts of personal information, and even lock you out of your own system. Some hackers will then hold your information for ransom. The best way to avoid these is to only visit reputable websites – and, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t click on those links from the 466 forwards from Steve.

The online world is an amazing resource – as long as you’re smart about it. Surf the web responsibly and stay safe out there, friends.

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