Tips to Protect Yourself from a Cyber Attack

According to a recent study, did you know that on average a person touches their phone 2,617 times per day? As some of the biggest online users in the world, Canadians visit more sites and spend more time on the internet than any other country. Within the last 24 hours, how many times have you checked your bank account through an online app? Checked your social networking sites (Facebook, twitter, etc.) or used email? Downloaded or shared a file? Shopped online? While we do this everyday without giving it a second thought, it’s important to realize that everything we do online puts us at risk for a cyber attack, or being “hacked”.

Then again, it’s not something most of us think about until we’ve been personally affected. Considering all of the time we spend on our computers or smartphones, a few precautions can go a long way to protect you and your family online. Check out our cyber attack prevention tips below.

  1. Sure it’s easy to remember, but don’t use your birthdate as a password (same goes for your pet’s name). This is the number one thing you can do to protect yourself online: create unique passwords and change them routinely. Of course, having to create new passwords for multiple sites can be a real hassle, but it doesn’t have to be. Use the suggestions below to make passwords that are safe and secure.
    1. Make your password at least eight characters long.
    2. Use a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.
    3. Technically, you can still use your pet’s name, your lucky numbers or the street you grew up on, but what would really be effective would be to make your password a mix of all of these things (keeping in mind the rules mentioned above, of course).
    4. If you like to write your passwords down, keep them in a safe location. Don’t write down the usernames or websites beside the corresponding passwords, and change them slightly as you write them down (e.g. remove the third character or add one character to the beginning of each password). Another option would be to use a handy subscription site that can help you manage your passwords in a digital vault.
  2. Never provide more information than is necessary. As a consumer, your personal information ties to corporate data, and most websites you shop on or visit ask you for an onslaught of personal details. Only provide what is essential to make the transaction, such as your address and credit card information if you shop online (better yet – use an online payment system, rather than shell out your credit card number on multiple sites). A good rule of thumb is to only provide the absolute minimum information (fields marked with an *), and skip any of the ‘optional’ fields.
  3. Protect each of your devices: your phone, your tablet, and your computer. If you wouldn’t leave your house unlocked, you shouldn’t leave your devices without protection, either. The nuisance of having to unlock your device with a verification method (e.g. type in a password, scan your thumbprint, make a pattern with your finger, etc.) each time you want to use it far outweighs the cost of having your personal information, like photos and credit card information, in the wrong hands.
  4. Develop a skeptical eye to recognize phishing scams. These scams impersonate legitimate organizations to dupe people into giving out their personal information. Your best defense is to be suspicious of any email that asks you to enter or verify your personal information. If you’re not sure, exit your email and log into your account directly through the company website. Or pick up the phone and call the company directly. And remember: never click a link in a suspicious email.

When it comes down to it, cyber attacks are most often just an inconvenience (having to order new credit cards, for example), however, serious online threats do exist. It is imperative that you educate yourself on safe online practices and become aware of what you can do to protect yourself from potential risk.

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