CSI Technologies and Harris Poll recently surveyed 2,000 Americans nationwide about their opinions and fears surrounding cybersecurity as it pertains to their personal financial data. A majority of respondents expressed concerns about their online security online, and 74% said they would be likely to participate in a cybersecurity education or awareness program if their bank offered it.
Three in 10 poll respondents said they wouldn’t know what to do if their personal information was compromised in a data breach, and 55% said they would like to do more to protect their privacy, but don’t know how.
Meanwhile, a quarter of all consumers – and more than a third of adults 34 and under – continue to use the same passwords for their bank accounts and other online accounts.
If you’re a member of any of these groups, you should be aware that there are steps you can take and resources you can access to stay safer and more secure online.
National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) – observed every October – was created under leadership from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). Now in its 16th year, NCSAM has grown exponentially, reaching consumers, small and medium-sized businesses, corporations, educational institutions and young people across the nation.
The main effort in 2019 is to encourage all Americans to take proactive steps to enable lasting, positive cybersecurity behavior change at home and at work. Protecting against cyber threats is a critical challenge for organizations of all sizes in both the public and private sector and serves as a constant reminder of the need to promote cybersecurity awareness across the nation.
NCSAM stresses the importance of empowering citizens, businesses, government, and schools to improve their cybersecurity preparedness. It reminds us that being more secure online is a shared responsibility and creating a safer cyber environment requires engagement from all of us.
The line between our online and offline lives is indistinguishable. In these tech-fueled times, our homes, societal well-being, economic prosperity and national security are impacted by the internet.
Individuals are encouraged to be proactive in protecting their personal data and digital privacy. Adhering to the following NCSAM safety measures is a good place to start:
- Double your login protection. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you. Use it for email, banking, social media and any other service that requires logging in.
- Beef up your password protocol. Consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible. Get creative and customize your standard password for different sites, which can prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to these accounts and protect you in the event of a breach. Use password managers to generate and remember different, complex passwords for each of your accounts.
- Avoid using common words in your password. Substitute letters with numbers and punctuation marks or symbols. For example, the “at” symbol (@) can replace the letter “A” and an exclamation point (!) can replace the letters “I” or “L.”
- Use phonetic replacements, such as “PH” instead of “F”. Or make deliberate, but obvious misspellings, such as “enjin” instead of “engine.”
- Don’t tell anyone your passwords and watch out for attackers trying to trick you into revealing your passwords through emails or phone calls. Every time you share or reuse a password, it chips away at your security by opening up more avenues in which it could be misused or stolen.
- If you connect, you must protect. Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, gaming console or other network device, the best defense against viruses and malware is to update to the latest security software, web browser and operating system. Sign up for automatic updates, if you can, and protect your devices with antivirus software.
- Play hard to get with strangers. Cybercriminals use phishing tactics, hoping to fool their victims. If you’re unsure who an email or message is from – even if the details appear accurate – or if the email looks “phishy” – do not respond and do not click on any links or attachments found in that email. When available, use the “junk” or “block” option to no longer receive messages from that particular sender.
- Never click and tell. Limit what information you post on social media, such as your personal addresses or even where you like to grab coffee. What many people don’t realize is that these seemingly random details are all cybercriminals need to know to target you, your loved ones and your physical belongings, both online and in the physical world.
- Keep Social Security numbers, account numbers and passwords private, as well as specific information about yourself, such as your full name, address, birthday and even vacation plans. Disable location services that allow anyone to see where you are – and where you aren’t – at any given time.
- Keep tabs on your apps. Most connected appliances, toys and devices are supported by a mobile application. Your mobile device could be filled with suspicious apps running in the background or using default permissions you never realized you approved – gathering your personal information without your knowledge while also putting your identity and privacy at risk.
- Check your app settings and use the “rule of least privilege” to delete what you don’t need or no longer use. Learn to just say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense. Only download apps from trusted vendors and sources.
- Stay protected while connected. Before you connect to any public Wi-Fi, be certain to confirm the name of the network and exact login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure that the network is legitimate. If you do use an unsecured public access point, practice good cyber hygiene by avoiding sensitive activities (such as banking) that require passwords or credit card numbers. Your personal hotspot is a safer alternative to free Wi-Fi. Only use sites that begin with “https://” when shopping or banking online. (The added “s” stands for “secure.”)
The American Bankers Association (aba.com) provides a plethora of information on how to protect yourself online, as does the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (sec.gov).