Cyber attacks on government agencies and major companies around the world are on the rise. In the past several months, ransomware attacks have breached networks for Microsoft, the Irish Department of Health, U.S. Colonial Pipeline, and JBS meat processing in North America and Australia, to name just a few. After hearing such news, the idea of protecting your personal data can seem overwhelming or futile. Yet, conducting a cyber security checkup — quick a review and update of your accounts and electronic devices — can help more than you might think.
Following are some steps you can take to simplify and maintain cyber security efforts. Each only takes a few minutes to complete. It’s a worthy investment of your time. Block 15 to 20 minutes in your calendar this week to conduct a cyber security checkup.
Use antivirus software, and keep apps and software current.
Make sure you have trustworthy antivirus software installed and updated to protect your computers and mobile devices from viruses and malware. Keep software up to date with the latest patches and upgrades. Sign up for automatic updates.
Close or delete unused accounts.
The smaller your online presence, the more secure your information. Take a few minutes to close unused accounts and minimize your vulnerability. Sign up for account activity notifications to help you keep track.
Use multi-factor authentication.
Also called two-factor authentication, this requires a second credential to verify your identity. (e.g. It may require entering a code sent in real-time by text, email or phone call.)
Use screen locks on every device.
Set a password or PIN for every laptop, smartphone and tablet you own. Any lost device without a screen lock is a gateway for someone to access your email, banking and social accounts; thieves can change passwords and take control of your digital life.
Check your data-breach status.
A data-breach, or being pwned (pronounced pōned), means your personal data has been stolen and possibly sold. At haveibeenpwned.com, you can check your email addresses against lists from 120 known company breaches (i.e. Adobe, LinkedIn, Facebook, Daily Quiz). Be sure to change the password for any compromised accounts, as well as any other sites where you used the same password.
Beware of Phishing
Phishing is a malicious text or email that seems to be from a trusted source. The object is to trick you into clicking on a dangerous link or providing confidential information. Common warning signs include:
- A message you didn’t expect or that comes from a person or service you don’t know.
- Spelling errors or poor grammar.
- Strange or mismatched sender addresses.
- Mismatched links (a seemingly legitimate link sends you to an unexpected address).
- Odd links or addresses.
- Requests for passwords, account numbers, personal information or answers to security questions.
- Offers that seem too good to be true, or messages that express great urgency.