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7 Steps to Improve Your Cyber Security

Over the last few years more and more things in your life rely on computers and the internet now—communication (e.g., email, smartphones, tablets), entertainment (e.g., interactive video games, social media, apps ), transportation (e.g., navigation systems), shopping (e.g., online shopping, credit cards), medicine (e.g., medical equipment, medical records), and the list goes on. What have you done lately to reduce the chance that poor cyber security can impact you personally?

Here’s a list of steps you can take to get started on your personal cyber security upgrade:

  • Keep software up to date. Install software patches so that attackers cannot take advantage of known problems or vulnerabilities. Many operating systems offer automatic updates. If automatic updates are available, you should enable them.
  • Run up-to-date antivirus software. A reputable antivirus software application is an important protective measure against known malicious threats. It can automatically detect, quarantine, and remove various types of malware. Be sure to enable automatic virus definition updates to ensure maximum protection against the latest threats. (See Outsmarting Malware)
  • Use strong passwords. Select passwords that will be difficult for attackers to guess and use different passwords for different programs and devices. It is best to use long, strong passphrases or passwords that consist of at least 16 characters. (See our article from World Password Day)
  • Change default usernames and passwords. Default usernames and passwords are easily guessed by attackers, who commonly try them against websites trying to gain access. Use an unlikely username and change default passwords as soon as possible to a sufficiently strong and unique password.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA). Authentication is a process used to validate a user’s identity. Attackers commonly exploit weak authentication processes. MFA uses at least two identity components to authenticate a user’s identity, minimizing the risk of an attacker gaining access to an account if they know the username and password. (See A Must-Have for Protecting Yourself Online)
  • Install a firewall. Firewalls may be able to prevent some types of attack vectors by blocking malicious traffic before it can enter a computer system, and by restricting unnecessary outbound communications. Some device operating systems include a firewall. Sometimes your Internet Service Provider has a firewall capability in place. Find out which applies to you and enable firewall settings as specified in your device or system owner’s manual.
  • Be suspicious of unexpected emails. Phishing emails are currently one of the most prevalent risks to the average user. The goal of a phishing email is to gain information about you, steal money from you, or install malware on your device. Be suspicious of unexpected emails - especially if they are trying to push you into immediate action like visiting a website or entering a password. (See Banks Never Ask That!)

Want to learn more? Visit our Security Center for more information about protecting yourself against cyber and fraud threats.