Many people have been recently reminded that their online accounts or home computer could be hacked or held for ransom. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised the risk that state-sponsored and rogue hackers could take unprecedented action to harm the Internet and all who use it (that includes all of us).
Oasis Wealth wants to help you stay safe as you use the Internet. This article is focused on steps you can take to reduce the possibility of becoming the victim of cybercrime. As you consider these, you may find yourself thinking “…but doing that means I’ll be paying a fee to someone for the rest of my life” and “…but these are extra steps that are complicated and will cost me time.” Yes, you are right. There is a cost to safety. To reduce the likelihood of a car break-in, we hide valuables and lock our cars. We put locks on our homes. We have security codes to unlock our cellphones. And we could go on and on. Because bad people want to take advantage of us, we have to take action.
Keeping Your Computer Virus-Free
Windows computers are more exposed to computer viruses than Apple computers. It is imperative that Windows computers be protected with antivirus software. Some popular choices include Norton, McAfee and Windows Defender. If you have to pay a fee, you are probably getting better protection.
If some virus makes its way through this software, you may need more help in the form of other software or a professional. If the software can’t identify the virus to stop it, it can’t clean it up either.
You could consider a malware removal program that does search-and-destroy missions. One popular program, Malwarebytes, is available for Apple computers as well. And the paid version is better than the free one.
Another important piece of software is your computer’s operating system. Configure the settings so that your operating system and antivirus software is updated automatically. Viruses mutate and your antivirus software must mutate, too.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
When I was first asked to use multi-factor authentication to get into an online account, it may have been for my bank’s website. Yes, it seemed a bit troublesome but it also seemed cleverly simple. Could this work against cybercriminals? If so, this could be used everywhere. And, so it should be!
With MFA, you still enter your username and password to get into a site, and then you are prompted to read a PIN number from a text, and enter that PIN in the box on the screen. When you enter the correct PIN, you are allowed access to your online account.
MFA should be used for your most sensitive accounts, including financial accounts and email accounts. Many sites will not require the code every time you log in, as long as they recognize your computer and IP address (like when you’re using your home computer).
We have noticed that many websites we use as fee-only financial advisors require us to use MFA. That means it would be good for you to use it whenever you can. In other words, if a website asks you if you would like to use MFA, use it.
Security For Your Cellphone
So much of our life is centered around our cellphones, and their importance is growing. If you use your cellphone to access important services via an app, you have probably seen more security features in the past few years.
Since so much of your life is in the apps on your phone, you should always use a passcode to unlock the phone. A six-digit code is better than a four digit one. Also, be aware of who may be watching you enter your passcode. If a phone thief could watch you unlock your phone a few times, they may be able to quickly access private information after stealing your phone.
Watch out for text messages that can be dangerous. Don’t click on a link in a message unless you know for certain who sent you the message. Do not reply to messages from people you do not know. The basic rule of thumb here is to know who is communicating with you. For example, the message might say “This is Amazon and there is a problem with your order. Please click here.” However, this text is probably not from Amazon. It’s from a criminal who wants to steal your Amazon password and use it to buy lots of stuff.
Only download apps from a trusted source like the App Store. Before downloading an app, carefully read the description and the developer. Make sure you check the ratings and reviews to confirm that this app is the one you are looking for. Also, find out what personal information the app will have access to.
You may have recently noticed that your apps are asking for your permission to track your activity all the time. Only give apps the permissions they need to work for you. Don’t give them unlimited access to your phone and activities.
Keep your phone’s operating system and your apps up to date. You can set your phone to do this automatically.
Occasionally review all the apps on your phone and tablet to see if there are some you aren’t using. If they’re not being used, delete them. This will clean up your screen space and reduce the possibility of being tracked.
There are security features available on your phone and tablet that you may not know about. Take time to review these or find an online article explaining how to make your cellphone more secure.
As you enjoy the information, entertainment and connection that the Internet can provide, stay aware. Mixed in with the good is the bad (and the ugly). Some of the advice we are given about how to stay safe in public places (the grocery store, the mall, an event) also apply to the Internet. Stay in familiar territory and keep your head up, being alert to people who might have ill intent. When going to a new place, go with people who have been there before. Do not get drawn away from the well-lit, familiar area.
We will have more information to share about cybersecurity in future articles.