Spring is a great time to review your digital footprint and ensure that your cybersecurity practices are still working well. With tax season in full flow, stay safe and spring clean your physical and digital data, strengthen your passwords and keep cybercriminals at bay.
Review Your Passwords
Without strong passwords on your accounts, any other security measures you take will be less effective. If you’re using words or phrases that are easy to guess, or you’ve already had accounts exposed as part of a data breach, now is the time to update everything. You can check if any of your accounts have been compromised by visiting the Have I Been Pwned website.
Strong passwords are at least 8 characters long, although longer is better. Don’t use common phrases or easy-to-guess combinations like Password123, your name or date of birth. Try a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Need something easier to remember? Try switching out common letters for other characters, like @ instead of an “a”.
Other ways to strengthen your passwords are:
- Making sure you only use each password once for different accounts and never reuse credentials across different platforms or accounts.
- Whenever you can, use multi-factor authentication to login to your accounts. This could be through FaceID, fingerprint, or an authenticator app like Duo or Google Authenticator.
- Think about using a password manager. This keeps all of your passwords safely stored, leaving you with only one master password to remember.
- Check the strength of your passwords using online tools like bitwarden’s Password Strength Tester.
Declutter Your Inbox
Email is unavoidable in our work and personal lives, but it can become overwhelming if you let your inbox get out of control. Not only can excessive emails be a source of stress, they can also become a security problem.
Make a list of every email account you have and close any that are no longer needed or in use. Create folders to store away any must-keep emails and delete anything else. Be sure to check that you have no personally identifiable information in an email, like banking information or sensitive personal details.
You should also unsubscribe from any email lists you don’t want to be on any longer. Similarly, never open an email attachment or link that you weren’t expecting to receive. This is one of the easiest ways for hackers to gain access to your accounts and computer. Always verify who a message is from before opening anything. Always keep in mind that Union Bank will never request sensitive account or personal information through email.
Finally, secure your devices with a password, PIN or other login to help protect your email. Never leave your computer or phone unattended and unlocked—a criminal could easily access your email through your device.
Scan Your Social Media Accounts
Just like with your email, take some time to go through your social media accounts and remove any that you no longer use. Check the privacy settings on each and make any changes to what is shared and with whom.
Delete any photos you no longer want accessible and remember that, even if your settings are set to friends and family only, you can’t control what someone else might share from your account.
If you encounter any suspicious accounts on social media, take action by either blocking or removing them from your friends list. Additionally, exercise caution when communicating through direct messaging as it’s difficult to verify the identity of the person on the other end. Similar to email, avoid clicking on any links that appear suspicious if you can’t verify the sender or the content of the link. Social media accounts are at risk of takeover and spoofing, so even if the sender appears to be a verified account owner, be careful as it may not be the true owner.
Smart Devices, Smarter Security
The Internet of Things
(IoT) and smart devices have undoubtedly made our lives easier and more convenient. However, the growing number of these devices has also increased the potential doors and windows for attackers to gain unauthorized access to our data. With an expected 77.1 million Smart Homes in the US by 2025, the risk of cyber security threats from these devices cannot be overlooked. Cybercriminals can and have exploited the vulnerabilities of these devices and gain access to sensitive information, such as personal data, financial information, and even control over your home’s security system. For instance, if a cybercriminal gains access to your smart thermostat, they can easily learn when you’ll be away, putting your home and possessions at risk.
It’s crucial to prioritize security for smart devices, just like on laptops and smartphones. Security measures such as setting strong and unique passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and keeping the device firmware updated can help prevent unauthorized access. It’s also essential to be mindful of the data that you share with these devices and the apps that you use to control them. Regularly reviewing the app permissions and privacy settings can help you understand the type of data that the devices collect and how it’s being used. Don’t wait for an attack to occur; take preventative measures now to protect your home and privacy.
Delete Unused Apps
Unused apps don’t only take up space on your device, but they can also be a security risk if not updated frequently. Delete any you’re no longer using. If you have an account within the app itself, be sure to delete this first before removing the app.
Keep Your Desk Clean
A tidy desk doesn’t only equal a tidy mind, it’s also important for security. Keep any documents with sensitive account or personally identifiable information filed away to prevent them from becoming lost or stolen.
Any documents you no longer need should be securely shredded. Your office may hold “Shred Days” if you don’t have access to a personal shredder, or you can take your documents to a local office supply store for secure disposal.
Back up Important Data
Keeping a backup of your digital data can help you quickly recover if you become a victim of malware or ransomware. Even simply losing your device or having it stolen can create headaches without proper backups in place.
Prioritize which files you want to keep and think about how you want to back these up. You can save them in cloud-based storage systems or on a physical hard drive that’s separate from your device. Having several backups may be useful.
Make sure to back up and clear out any local files before disposing of or discarding any devices. To completely eliminate the possibility of extracting information from a device, it should be destroyed or overwritten in such a way that no data can be retrieved using forensic software. This applies to all types of devices including phones, tablets, laptops, and any other devices you may have at home. If you’re at work, check with your employer regarding any company-wide backup policies or any steps you should take to ensure the safety of your work data and files.
Keep Your Devices Updated
Do you keep important information or photographs stored on your device? Requiring a passcode, PIN, or biometric authentication helps to ensure that your personal information remains secure.
When prompted to update your devices, don’t ignore these notifications. Operating systems are frequently updated with bug fixes and patches that help keep your device secure and personal data safe. You may also want to install anti-virus software and run frequent scans to check for any malicious activity.
Learn More About Cybersecurity Awareness at Union Bank!
At Union Bank, keeping your data and finances safe is our priority. Learn more about cybersecurity awareness and find out how we protect our customers and community throughout Vermont and New Hampshire. Contact us with any questions about your accounts by phone, email, or stopping in at a branch.