4 Tips to Keep You and Your Family Safe Online

Little girl having access restriction by parental control on laptop at home, back view. Child safety

While many people assume that cybercriminals focus on hacking into big companies, the truth is that everyone is vulnerable – both adults and children alike. 

Why it matters: In today’s ever-evolving digital world, much of our personal information is stored either on our computers, smartphones, tablets, or even others’ systems and devices. Knowing how to protect the information we store is imperative to keep up with the growing threat of cyberattacks.

That’s why, in the spirit of Internet Safety Month, we’re sharing three tips to keep you and your family cyber safe.

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!), remember that your passwords 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.

Bonus:If available, using multi-factor authentication can make it even harder for someone to compromise your account.

2. Be Suspicious of Unexpected Emails or Text Messages

Cybercriminals may use emails or text messages to try to trick you into giving them your personal and financial information. This type of communication – 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.

3. Update your software

We get it! Sometimes you’re in the middle of something and don’t have time to update your software. 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 sites 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.

BONUS: Protecting Kids Online

As kids spend more time online, it’s important to speak with them about using the internet and how they can make good decisions to stay safe. 

Here are three tips to discuss with your children:

  • Keep personal information private. Never post your personal information online such as social security numbers, phone numbers, account numbers, and passwords. If cybercriminals gain access to this information, they can use it to harm you or your family.
  • Use care when sharing photos and videos. Texting and social media sites – like Snapchat and TikTok – allow us to share photos and videos. A good rule of thumb – only post something online if you’re comfortable with everyone in the world seeing it.
  • Speak up if you encounter a problem. If you get into trouble online, tell your parents or a trusted adult instead of hiding it.

Looking for more tips? Check out this great resource on keeping your kids cyber safe.

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.