This post is sponsored by The Department of Homeland Security; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Tips to Be Cyber Smart
“I’m lactose intolerant. If I eat any ice cream, everyone around me will know it later.”
“Man, I should really get a shower. I think it’s been three days!”
“Hey everybody, my kid pooped in the potty TWICE today! Want to see a picture?”
We are all guilty of oversharing or falling into the trap of TMI with strangers. I just overshared with my dental hygienist last week – although it’s her fault for asking about my mom life. And if you’re my friend online, I can admit to being a little too excited over my toddler’s recent potty training success (although to my credit, I haven’t shared any photos of her new skill). But I mean really – I’ve probably told everyone lately that we are potty training. It just sort of spills out!
Fortunately, oversharing our embarrassing stories to strangers is really only detrimental to our level of “coolness.” What’s really dangerous is when we make ourselves vulnerable to cybercrime.
So…do you think you’ve never engaged in online activities that made you a potential target for a cyber attack? Think again. How many times have you clicked through a quiz to find out what your elf name should be, or what your career was in your former life? What about signing into a new app using your social media profile? Or connecting that fun exploding candy game to your social media so you can ask your friends for new lives? While you may not have accepted millions of dollars from the Nigerian prince who continues to email you, you’ve probably shared a password at least once in your life. And that’s basically the same thing as handing out your ATM PIN (which I know from experience is a TERRIBLE idea).
Fun Fact: 600,000 Facebook Accounts are hacked every single day. Insert WOW emoji here.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to learn a lot about cyber security by being married to an IT Security Engineer (he also fixes my Wi-Fi when it fizzles out, holler!). Here are my top tips for being cyber smart, featuring a few tidbits from the Department of Homeland Security.
Be Cyber Smart with Password Security
My number one tip here: DON’T SHARE YOUR PASSWORDS. Seriously. You may think it’s harmless, but it’s best to be safe. I’m going to take a wild guess and say your online movie streaming password is the same as your bank password too. Which brings me to tip two: use different passwords. I can tie that in with tip three: make your passwords long (size matters here, y’all) so they are difficult to steal. If your passwords are all Rover1, it’s going to be pretty easy for someone to figure that out and hack into everything. Think more along the lines of Roveratemyshoeagain.
Fun Fact: 31% of Millennials are likely to share their password – the most of any age group. (Compared to 15% of Baby Boomers) Sounds like some Millennials didn’t listen to their mom, doesn’t it?
Should I mention that you should never write your password on a sticky note and keep it on your computer? Nah, I think that one goes without saying.
Be Cyber Smart with Public Wi-Fi
Ok, so I will admit I didn’t really know much about public Wi-Fi safety until recently. However, public Wi-Fi is not very secure and it can be easy for someone to grab your information if you don’t take precautions. When logging into an account over public Wi-Fi, make sure you use 2-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) to keep yourself more secure. It is one extra step that can help block a sneaky cyber criminal from getting your passwords to log into your accounts. You can use these safeguards by using a trusted mobile device (your smartphone), an authenticator app, or a secure token.
Be Cyber Smart with Data Security
Would you walk up to a stranger in a foreign city and tell them your full name, address, phone number, and where you work? That sounds a little silly, but people make this information available online all the time! You’re probably safe if you are on a trusted and secure site (look for that green lock icon in your browser’s bar), but be cautious on new sites, unsecure sites, or when asked for personal info in an email from a Nigerian prince.
Fun Fact: 47% of American Adults have had their personal information exposed to cyber criminals.
Makes you feel a little icky, doesn’t it?
Have you ever gotten a seemingly innocent email that ended up being a scam? I actually came VERY close to a phishing scam by clicking on an email link that went to a fake site. I thought I needed to verify my account information as requested, but alarms went off in my head when the questions asked for sensitive info – including my bank account PIN! If you receive an email that asks you to click a link to verify your account or something similar, don’t do it. It’s best to go directly to the website and log in.
One other security concern that has popped up in the past few years is geotagging. When using social media, we have the option to tag where we are when we post a picture. By doing so, we give creepy people too much information – where we are at that time, potentially where we live, or even that we are on vacation and our home is empty. It is best to disable geotagging features; but if you must tag, stick with a general location (closest major city) or edit your post later and tag the location after you have left the area.
Just Be Cyber Smart!
Wait! Don’t throw away the whole internet! It’s possible to be active online and not have all of your information stolen. Follow the tips I’ve outlined above, and you’ll be on your way to a much safer internet. Think of it as putting on your seatbelt as you travel that information superhighway.
For more ways you can be cyber smart, check out these fun and informative cyber lessons from the Department of Homeland Security.