It seems like every week we’re learning of a new, large company losing customers information to a data breach by hackers. In 2012, the South Carolina state government was breached for 3.6 million taxpayers information, including social security numbers. And just this month, Equifax was hacked for 143 million users. Great.
We all want to keep our family safe online. Here are 5 things that you can do today to make your family more cyber secure.
1) Strong, Unique Passwords - This advice is given everywhere for a reason. It works. Long gone are the days of using “Password” or “Password1234” as a secure way to access your digital accounts. And don’t use the same simple password for your email, social media and banking. Once your password is compromised, hackers use it at all other major sites to see what other accounts of yours it can open.
To help conjure up a new password consider a simple sentence. It’s not really a “password” anymore, it's a “passphrase”. For Example: “The Secure Dad is great!” As a passphrase that would look like “TheSecureDadisgreat!”. BTW - this is not any password that I use.
So how strong is “TheSecreDadisgreat!” as a passphrase? According to PasswordMeter.com it scores a perfect 100%. Sites like PasswordMeter.com check the strength of your passphrases. Now, as before stated, that is not a passphrase I use. So if you want to check your passphrase at one of these sites, I suggest NOT using your exact passphrase. Change out a number or character just incase.
2) Two Step Authentication - Two step authentication is when you log into a site using a passphrase and then receive a text for a one time use code. This is a highly recommended way to secure your accounts. But from personal experience, it’s a pain to use two-step authentication for email. So choose wisely when selecting this method.
3) Passphrase Vault - Passphrase vaults are software, or apps, that keep all your passphrases in one place. That sounds like putting all of your eggs in one basket, right? By encrypting the passphrases, the vault offers you the chance to use a single passphrase for accessing a number of your accounts. There are apps and browser plug-ins that let you access the information quickly. Just don’t forget the vault passphrase and you’ll be fine.
4) Solid Antimalware - Just like you have a security system for your home, you need to have antimalware software protecting your cyber home. This type of software can identify, quarantine and delete threats and suspicious activity. Some offer firewall and encryption options. There are plenty to choose from so head on over to Google to search for one that suits you. Some options are even free.
Also, don’t fall victim to thinking that because you have an Apple product like an iPhone, iPad or Mac that you don’t need antimalware software. Hackers speak Mac as well as PC (Windows). Though, admittedly, there are more threats to PC users.
5) Be Smart - Remember that 3.6 million taxpayer data breach in South Carolina? And the Democratic National Convention hack from the last election? Both of those incidents came from the same source: a person. The DNC fell victim to a simple phishing attack asking a high ranking official to change their password. That official didn’t check the link he was clicking on, and now we know all of the DNC’s business. In South Carolina a phishing attack prompted an employee to send login credentials to what she thought was a co-worker.
In both cases these people weren't thinking. Your family needs to be cyber smart. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. Use your intuition and experience to keep hackers out of your home.
While this tip doesn’t come from the computer, it involves your PC. I, like thousands of other Americans, get a call every week or so from the “Windows Help Department.” The voice on the other end of the line speaks in broken English and is sketchy from the get go. This is a scam. Do not listen to them. These scammers don’t know if you have a PC, Mac or typewriter. They’re banking on you have a Windows machine. The plan is to have you follow their instructions over the phone and remove your security measures so they can hack you.
Keep in mind that just because you don’t see your social security number used immediately after a big data breach does not mean you’ve not been compromised. Your social security number doesn’t change. Hackers can hold that information for years before using it against you.
If you think you may have had information compromised by the Equifax breach there is a way you can find out. Enter your name and last 6 of your social to this website. To see if you’ve been affected. While the language is somewhat vague if you’ve not been compromised, it’s good to know for sure you haven’t been.
The sobering truth of it all is that no one can really keep your information secure forever. Hackers and just too good and some companies are just not vigilant enough in keeping your information safe. That’s why we have to do all that we can to make our homes cybersecure. Get more tips on keeping your family safe in your inbox with The Secure Dad Newsletter.
A special thanks to my cyber savvy buddy, Tommy for suggesting this topic and helping me with this article. If you have a topic that you’d like to see on The Secure Dad, feel free to contact me.