6 tips for staying safe online

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Father and sons look at tablet computer while at home

According to a 2019 study by Deloitte, U.S. households have an average of 11 devices connected to the internet. This not only includes computers and smartphones, but also toys, baby monitors and home security systems.

While digital devices can provide security, connect us with loved ones and make our lives easier, they can also provide new opportunities for criminals to gain access to personal information. A breach could lead to identity theft, stolen savings or even a home break-in — so it’s extremely important to secure your digital life.

Start by following these six online safety tips:

1. Create strong usernames and passwords.
Make sure that your username and password are unique for each account. Use capitalized and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters to improve security.

It’s always best to memorize your passwords, but we know that can be difficult. While it can be tempting to save a list of your passwords in your phone, a safer option is to store your list in a secure location.

2. Educate yourself about online scams.
Knowledge can be one of your greatest weapons when it comes to fighting cybercrime. Learn about the different types of cyberattacks and you’ll be more likely to successfully dodge a hacker’s trap. Here are a few to know:

  • Phishing. In attempt to collect usernames, passwords, credit card information and more, hackers will send an email, often imitating a legitimate company. These emails will usually try to get you to open an attachment, click a button or enter your information in a form.
  • Pharming. Hackers will attempt to collect your personal data by redirecting traffic from a legitimate website to a similar-looking website that they control.
  • Vishing and Smishing. Offshoots of phishing attacks, vishing and smishing occur through your phone. A vishing attack is when a hacker uses the internet to call you and appear as a real business on your caller ID. When this cybercriminal has you on the phone, they’ll ask for your personal information. Similarly, smishing attacks will imitate an official business in an attempt to get your personal information through text messages.

3. Watch what you post on social media.
Be careful not to reveal too much on social media. Cybercriminals can use your personal information to reconstruct passwords and answer security questions. Additionally, if you’re going on vacation, share your pictures after you return. When you share plans ahead of time or photos during the trip, you’re letting everyone know that you’re out of town and your house is empty — making you a prime target for a robbery.

4. Protect your router.
Your router is the gateway between the internet and your personal devices. If it’s not secure, hackers can breach your system and access all your connected devices from your smartphone to your fridge. To protect your router:

  • Give the router a new name and password. The default name can help hackers figure out the model and learn how to break in.
  • Disable Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) PIN feature. WPS allows you to quickly connect devices to your network at the push of a button or with a quick PIN entry. While the button on your router proves secure, hackers can use a brute force attack to rapidly guess combinations of numbers until they determine your PIN.
  • Add additional security like Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 or 3 (WPA2, WPA3) encryption solutions or a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to further safeguard your router.

5. Make online purchases with a credit card.
If you’re going to make an online purchase, pay using a credit card, rather than a debit card. With a credit card, you can cancel invalid charges and get a new card. If your debit card information is stolen, the cybercriminal has direct access to your bank account.

6. Stay alert.
The most important internet safety tip is to be observant. Keep an eye out for things that just don’t look right. Watch for misspellings, double-check website URLs and look for pixelated or distorted logos. Also, be sure to ask yourself questions like “Why would this company need this information?” or “Would I normally get an email for something like this?”

While it’s important to take every cybersecurity precaution possible, sometimes breaches still occur. Ask your independent insurance agent how home cyber coverage or identity theft insurance coverage can help you recover if you become the victim of a cyberattack.

This article is for informational and suggestion purposes only. Talk to your local independent agent to learn more about Grange’s identity theft, home cyber and business cyber insurance coverage.

References:
- CyberScout
- Deloitte 2019 Connectivity and Mobile Trends Survey
- Forbes
- Norton


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