Have You Changed Your Password Lately?

Cyber attacks have become commonplace in everyday life. It seems the news is filled with stories of major retailors having consumer’s personal information compromised or banking institutions with breaches of customer’s financial data.

In fact, the 2016 Cyber Security Symposium just wrapped up a two-day conference in Sacramento where some of the state’s top information security experts learned about the latest dangers that threaten organizations, as well as efforts being made to protect private data in the digital age.

While large scale cyber incidents can disrupt a retailer or organization, stolen personal data or financial information can create havoc for individuals.

Understanding the risks with using the internet and taking responsible actions to protect against hackers can keep you from becoming a victim.

Taking the following steps will make you less vulnerable to cyber dangers and keep personal information more secure online.

  • Routinely change your passwords. Creating strong passwords is important.  Avoid obvious passwords such as your birthdate or initials   Be creative and make your passwords strong by using random combination of letters, number and symbols that have no connection to you or your family. Make it a point to change passwords regularly, preferably once a month.
  • Use email wisely. Email is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, and as a tool to conduct business. However, it is important not to open emails, especially attachments, that come from unfamiliar senders. Also, be careful about what information you submit via email. Never send your credit-card information, Social Security number, or other private information via email.
  • Do not put financial or sensitive information on electronic devices. This is easier said than done. One of the reasons for having these gadgets is for convenience. However, if it’s not necessary, just keep personal data off your computer or smart phone. While anti-virus software is the best way to protect a PC, it’s not an effective defense for mobile phones. Instead, security experts say users need to be selective of where they conduct their mobile banking. Do not conduct financial transactions over public Wi-Fi in places such as a coffee house, hotel or in an airport. Instead, use a secure network or through a trusted hot spot.
  • Keep financial and personal information private. Do not provide your passwords, Social Security number, or personal information to unsolicited callers. When searching new websites, to ensure its security, make sure there is a closed lock symbol at the bottom right of the screen.  Web addresses that begin with “https” are generally secure, and if you click on the lock symbol on the bottom right, it will display the same “https” address.
  • Shop safely. If you plan to order from an online store, be sure that the Web site uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the Web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears at the bottom right of the checkout screen, or that there is a statement on the checkout screen stating that the pages are secure with a security technology vendor.
  • Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and fake web sites, masquerading as legitimate businesses, to lure unsuspecting users into revealing private account or login information. To be safe, if you receive an email from a business that includes a link to a web site, make certain that the web site you visit is legitimate. business or agency directly.
  • Sign up for real time alerts. Most banks and credit card companies have real time notification services that allow them to contact you in the event of a purchase attempt deemed “unusual.” Also, check your bank accounts and credit card statements for any fraudulent activity or unauthorized purchases. This could be indicator that your personal information has been compromised.
  • Subscribe to computer security service. Most new computers and mobile devices have virus protection software installed to keep you safe when online. However, if you are using an older PC or want extra piece of mind, consider subscribing to a computer security service. There is legitimate software available that can protect your devices from threats like viruses, spyware, malware and identity theft.

Computers, tablets, mobile phones, and gaming systems have become a convenient and enjoyable part of life, but they can bring a lot of disruption and headaches if proper precautions are not taken. Implementing these precautions can avoid disruption and a lot of headaches.

For more information about this topic, visit:

Department of Homeland Security

Ready.gov

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Robb Mayberry

Robb Mayberry is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. He has assisted in the response and recovery efforts with some of California’s worst disasters, including the San Refugio Oil Spill, the Valley and Butte Wildfires, Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, Erskine Fire, and the Winters Storms of 2017. Prior to public service, he spent 25 years managing the public and media relations for some of Northern California’s largest healthcare organizations.

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