PCMag SecurityWatch

5 ways to increase your online security in 10 minutes.

Views expressed in this cybersecurity and cybercrime update are those of the reporters and correspondents.  Accessed on 04 October 2022, 2252 UTC.  Content provided by email subscription to "PCMag Security Watch."

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Russ Roberts (https://www.hawaiicybersecurityjournal.net and https://paper.li/RussellRoberts). (Machine learning, artificial intelligence, IoT, and information security).

PCMag SecurityWatch
5 Ways to Increase Your Online Security in 10 Minutes
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) have launched an online "See Yourself in Cyber" campaign to focus on the people part of the complex online safety equation. 

The choices you make when you browse online can affect your safety at home, at school, or on the job. That's why CISA and NCA want to highlight four important cybersecurity rules everyone should follow online: 

  • Recognize and Report Phishing

  • Update your software

  • Use strong passwords

  • Enable multi-factor authentication

This month, SecurityWatch explains how you can abide by these principles, and we have additional tips to improve your cybersecurity hygiene.

Think Before You Click

This week we shine the cybersecurity spotlight on recognizing and reporting phishing. Phishing is when criminals use social engineering techniques and technical know-how to steal sensitive information such as corporate secrets, financial credentials, or personal data. The common ways criminals use phishing are through email and SMS. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, more than 316,000 phishing attacks were reported in December 2021, the highest monthly total in the group's 19-year reporting history.

The easiest way to avoid being phished is to take a minute to examine links before clicking on them. You can see the web address when you hover your mouse over the linked text. If the address directs you to a site that has nothing to do with the linked text, or if the address is misspelled, do not click the link.

If you encounter a suspicious link in a corporate setting, forward the message to your IT or information security department. If an odd-looking link or chat message comes to your personal account, reach out to the sender via a different method of communication if you know them in real life, and make sure they meant to send you the link. If you receive a suspicious-looking message from someone you do not know, delete it and block the sender. Another crime averted.

5 Ways to Increase Your Online Security

Maintaining a basic standard of cybersecurity hygiene doesn't take long. Adopting the "think before you click" approach to online safety only adds a few seconds to your browsing time, but there are other steps you can take to keep yourself safe that you can complete in just minutes. 

1. Turn on Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for Email

You should really use MFA on all your accounts, but email accounts usually contain a lot of personal info, so secure them first. Data breaches happen every day, and if a criminal obtains your email account credentials from one of these breaches, you could be in a world of hurt without another layer of protection. MFA adds another “factor” to verify your identity each time you log in by using at least two of the following: something you know (password, PIN), something you are (facial recognition, fingerprints), or something you have (hardware security key).

2. Update Your Web Browser

Your browser of choice may be vulnerable to security threats if you haven't updated it in a while. Browsers also need regular updates to fix performance issues. A browser update typically takes less than five minutes—often less than one minute—so it's a quick fix.

3. Change Passwords on Your Social Accounts and Store Them in a Password Manager

Not on social media? Good call. But if you are, change the password for a website you frequently visit instead. Next, download a password manager if you don't have one already. Most of the password managers we've reviewed offer a free trial, so you can learn how the software works and how it can be integrated into your workflow. Use the password manager to generate and store a complex and unique password for the account. 

4. Turn On Banking Notifications

Online banking alerts are an effortless way to monitor your account. You can request some mobile banking apps to notify you each time there's a transaction related to your account so you can address identity theft incidents before they ruin your life.  

5. Keep an Eye on Your Credit Score

Get your free credit report every year, and sign up for credit health monitoring with Credit Karma or a similar service. Look for new accounts you don't recognize, unfamiliar Social Security numbers, unknown names on your credit reports, and other strange information. Consider investing in identity theft protection software.

I recommend taking the time to re-evaluate your cybersecurity hygiene periodically throughout the year. If you have two more minutes to spare right now, read PCMag's guide to being more secure online.

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