How much of your personal information is stored online? From email to online accounts and social media, much of our personal data now lives online and is vulnerable to hackers. Of course, in the 21st century you can’t just snap your fingers and return to a time when this was not the case. The line between our digital and offline lives continues to blur. So, how to stay safe online and protect your sensitive personal and financial information? In this article, we’ll explain the most common cybersecurity threats and offer Internet security tips for protecting yourself against hackers.

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity refers to the strategies businesses and individuals use to protect themselves from cyber threats and digital attacks. These attacks are targeted at computers and mobile devices, as well as computer networks. Cyber criminals may be individual hackers or organized groups. They are usually looking to steal personal or business data that could help them gain access to financial accounts. Or they may try to trick you into sending them money.

Types of Cyber Attacks

  • Phishing: Email, text, and social media messages that pose as a well-known company, individual, or government institution in an attempt to trick you into clicking on a malicious link or sharing login credentials or other personally identifying information.
  • Malware: When a computer, mobile device, or network is infected with a virus or other type of malware such as ransomware.
  • Ransomware: This is a type of malware designed to encrypt or steal your sensitive information. Cyber criminals then demand a ransom payment for that information back.
  • Distributed DoS attacks: When hackers disable a website, computer system or network so that it cannot be used.

How to Protect Yourself Digitally

Now that you can recognize cyber attacks, learn how to protect your personal online security so you don’t fall victim to one of them.

1.  Use strong and complex passwords.

A good password is your first line of defense against getting hacked.
To create a strong password, do use:

  • A unique password for each of your online accounts A passphrase, which is a unique and memorable (for you) sentence or phrase
  • A combination of symbols, numbers, and upper and lower case letters
  • 11-15 characters in total
  • Change your passwords on a regular basis

Don’t use:

  • Personal information such as birthdays, pet names, street addresses, or anything easily obtained from your social media profile
  • Overused passwords such as “password” or “abc123”
  • Common words in general that are easy to guess

2.  Use multi-factor authentication.

In addition to a strong password, multi-factor authentication (MFA) is your next line of cybersecurity defense. Some accounts now require a second personal credential after you submit your username and password. The most common type of MFA credential is a temporary one-time passcode sent to your phone or email.

We recommend that you establish MFA with every account that offers it–not just when it is required.

3.  Secure your home Wi-Fi network.

Whether or not you work from home, your home Wi-Fi network should be secured with a password. This protects you from having strangers connect to your Wi-Fi and potentially intercept your sensitive personal data such as social security and bank account or credit card numbers, login credentials, and more.

This is also why you should avoid shopping online, logging into your checking account, or performing other sensitive tasks on your phone or laptop when connected to public, open Wi-Fi.

Make sure your home wi-fi is password protected to keep your personal devices and data safe from strangers trying to connect to your network.

4.  Always use a VPN.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure and unique network that protects your Internet connection and privacy while you are online. VPNs are useful when you are using an open Wi-Fi network and they add an extra layer of protection for your password-protected home Wi-Fi network.

5.  Install anti-virus software and keep it updated.

You should always have anti-virus software installed on your computer. Ensure automatic updates are enabled so you avoid any gaps in protection.  

6. Perform regular patching on your devices.

Make sure to follow through with updates to your computer and smartphone’s operating system (OS), as well as updates to the apps you use. These updates usually concern security, so ignoring them can leave you vulnerable to hackers.

7.  Only download apps from the official app stores.

Speaking of apps, you should avoid downloading them from anywhere that’s not the official app store for your operating system. The app stores screen all their offerings for malware before making them available to the public. Official app stores include the Google Play Store, Apple App Store, Amazon Appstore, and Samsung Galaxy Apps. 

Never auto-save your passwords - always manually type them in each time you need to login to an account.

8.  Disable the ‘Save Password’ feature in web browsers.

Most web browsers now offer users the option of saving passwords and usernames for auto-population when they log in to an online account. This feature may be convenient, but it’s also a lot less secure than manually entering your login credentials each time. As mentioned in #1, a password manager can help with maintaining your passwords in a secure manner.

The same advice applies to storing credit card information in your web browser or in online retail accounts. When it comes to in-person payments, add your First Bankers Trust Debit Mastercard to your smartphone’s mobile wallet app for fast and safe checkouts.

9.  Freeze your credit reports.

If you suspect that your identity has been stolen, your credit card number skimmed or stolen, or your personal information compromised through a data breach, you can immediately freeze your credit with all three of the major credit bureau agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Freezing your credit is free to do at any time and can also be reversed when you need to apply for a new credit account. In the meantime, scammers and thieves will be prevented from opening new credit accounts in your name. Consider a service such as Deluxe Provent for credit monitoring and alerting.

10.  Setup access protection for all your devices.

If one of your mobile devices is lost or stolen, a password or biometric requirement can prevent strangers from accessing any personal and sensitive data stored locally on your machine or in the cloud (if you do have login credentials saved, for example).

11.  Only visit safe websites.

Whether you’re shopping online or simply surfing the web for research or entertainment, you want to stay clear of unsecure websites. Signs that a website is secure include:

  • Padlock symbol before the web address
  • URL begins with HTTPS (instead of HTTP)
  • There is a privacy policy
  • Major payment methods are accepted (for e-commerce)

Website red flags include many pop-ups or redirects to other sites, payment methods limited to bank transfers or wire transfers, and a lack of return policy or privacy.

With any website you access, check the websites URL to verify it begins with HTTPs (instead of just HTTP). That S will help keep you secure.

See all you can do with Digital Banking at First Bankers Trust!

As West-Central Illinois’ leading community bank, we are dedicated to the security of our customers’ sensitive information and financial accounts. Read more Cybersecurity Awareness Tips, sign up for online banking, and download the new mobile banking app now. You can also check out our recent blog article on Understanding Digital and Mobile Banking. Looking for additional support from cybersecurity tools? Sign up today for ID Protect Plus and ID Restoration to safeguard your information from identity theft.