Terry Herr, CFP®, CLU
In today’s interconnected world, we are sharing more information online than ever before. June is National Internet Safety Month, dedicated to educating people on the importance of staying safe online.
Because of how much personal information is shared online, it’s important to practice internet safety. Here are five tips to keep in mind when you use your computer or phone.
Use Strong Passwords
Gone are the days of being able to use the same password for everything. And no, you shouldn’t use your dog’s name or the street you grew up on as a password. In fact, you shouldn’t use anything that anyone could easily find out about you with a Google search.
According to LastPass, a leader in password security, hackers use software and databases to figure out how to crack your password. After they have enough information, they use two tactics: credential stuffing or password spraying. Credential stuffing involves having bots automatically test every username and password combination in their database to see what works. Password spraying is the act of using known passwords (like password123) to see if they will work with a particular email address.1
To protect against both of these strategies, use different passwords for all of your logins, and use complex passwords that are hard to guess. The best passwords use a combination of letters, numbers, and special symbols and are at least 12 characters long.2 You can use a password generator to help you come up with a complex, random password, and then use an online application to help you keep track of all of them.
Always Update Your Software
You may be tempted to always click “Ask Me Later” on those annoying software update notifications, but software and app updates contain important security fixes that can help keep you safe online. According to the Cyber Security Awareness Alliance, these updates address security vulnerabilities, and when your software isn’t up to date, you run the risk of allowing cybercriminals to use those vulnerabilities for malicious intents.3
To minimize your risk, consider setting up automatic updates, and always update your computer and phone to the newest version.
Be Mindful of Wi-Fi
If you enjoy working at your local coffee shop or cafe, consider the things you do or don’t do when using their shared Wi-Fi. On an unsecured network, others may be able to see what you’re doing online. It’s much easier to hijack a user’s session on these public Wi-Fi networks than at home.
Because of this increased risk, use the following tips when using public Wi-Fi:
- Don’t access your personal or financial information.
- Only log in or send personal information to websites that are fully encrypted.
- Don’t stay logged into your accounts.
- Pay attention to warnings on your computer or web browser if they detect a spammy website.
- Change your device settings so it doesn’t automatically connect to Wi-Fi.
Set Up Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is a more secure way to sign in to websites, and you should set it up wherever possible. With two-factor authentication (or 2FA), you have to verify your identity on another device to ensure that it’s really you. For example, after typing in your email password, you also have to get a text sent to your mobile device with a verification code.
2FA is a great way to stay safe online. You’ll get notifications every time someone tries to log into your accounts and can flag any suspicious behavior. It also ensures that no one can log into your account without having access to your second method of verification.
Protect Your Personal Information
Take steps to protect your personal information online. In today’s digital age of social media, it’s easy to share information that you might not want out in the world. And on the Internet, everything you put out there lasts forever.
Protect your personal information by not oversharing on social media, using strong and unique passwords, and only entering your information on a secure site with secure Internet access. Before entering any personal information, confirm that the site’s name starts with “https.” This means it’s a secure site.
Hackers are becoming more sophisticated, but you can stay a few steps ahead of them. This National Internet Safety Month, remember to stay safe online by using strong passwords, setting up 2FA, keeping your software up to date, and being cautious of what you share over public Wi-Fi networks.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.