4 Cybersecurity Tips To Keep You Safe & Protected

dual authentication password security

While many people assume that cyber criminals focus on hacking into big companies, the truth is that everyone is vulnerable. In fact, 47% of American adults have had their personal information exposed by cyber criminals. 

That’s why, in the spirit of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we’re sharing four cybersecurity tips to keep you protected.

1. Create strong passwords

This may sound like a no-brainer but creating strong passwords is critical to protecting yourself from cyber threats. And while we know you’ve evolved way past using “123456”  or your birthday for passwords (at least we hope so!), hackers have gotten more sophisticated over time. 

Remember that your password should be: 

  • At least 15 characters long.
  • A combination of letters (upper and lowercase), numbers, and special characters (like, !?,>). Better yet if it’s randomly generated – usually by a computer or password manager.
  • Unique. Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts. Otherwise, a successful hack could lead to “credential stuffing,” where one hacked password can be used to enter other accounts.

The good news? If you follow these guidelines, you won’t need to ever change your passwords. That is unless you become aware that an unauthorized person is accessing that account, or the password was compromised in a data breach.

And, if available, using multi-factor authentication can make it even harder for someone to compromise your account.

2. Use a password manager

So, the next question is: how can you remember and keep track of your long and unique passwords? 

Ditch that Word doc, spreadsheet or notebook and instead use one of the many free and easy-to-use tools that help manage your library of unique passwords. Password managers, which often come in the form of apps or browser plugins, store and encrypt your passwords. Many of the most common programs you use every day – including Google and iCloud – offer them free of charge. 

Password mangers will also create new passwords for you and autofill them when you arrive at a website. Some password managers even have a security aspect that will let you know if an account has been compromised. 

The best part of using a password manager? You don’t have to remember 100 different passwords – you’ll only have to remember one – the master password that lets you access your password manager.

3. Be suspicious of unexpected emails or text messages

Cyber criminals use emails or text messages to try to trick you into giving them your personal and financial information. These types of communications – called phishing – is a popular form of cybercrime because of how effective it is. 

The best way to protect yourself from phishing scams is to know what to look for. Phishing messages may:

  • Ask for your personal or financial information.
  • Ask you to click on links or download attachments or software.
  • Pretend to be from a reputable organization, like your bank or workplace, or from someone you know, like a family member or coworker.
  • Look exactly like a message you would receive from an organization or person you trust but come from an unofficial email address or website, and/or use a generic greeting or none at all.

It’s important to never respond to requests for your private information over email, text message, or phone call. If you’re ever unsure, reach out to the institution that supposedly sent the message in person or over the phone. Make sure to report a scam message by forwarding it to SPAM (7726) or at the Federal Trade Communications website here. 

4. Update your software

We get it! Sometimes you’re in the middle of something and don’t have time to update your software. Or you receive so many messages about it that you start to ignore them. But however long they sometimes take, software updates are important. 

Manufacturers issue these updates as they discover new vulnerabilities in their products. Only apply updates that come from manufacturer websites and built-in application stores, as third-party sties and applications can be unreliable and result in an infected device. 

To avoid interrupting your online activities, you can schedule your updates to take place during the night or allow your operating system to perform automatic updates when it notices that usage levels are low.

Practicing cybersecurity “hygiene” 

In 2021 the FBI received close to 850,000 complaints of suspected cybercrime, with reported losses at $6.9 billion. It’s clear that following these four cybersecurity tips needs to be more than an afterthought. Indeed, just like bathing or brushing your teeth, good cybersecurity “hygiene” needs to be a part of your routine that can help save you from identity theft, loss of money or time, or even worse. 

At Beyond, we’re committed to helping consumers stay informed and secure online. To learn even more cybersecurity tips, including how to practice two-factor authentication, read our related article here.