Letting your guard down. Cyberattacks and data hacks can happen to anyone.

You think you’re pretty tech savvy. You protect your private information on social media. You’re careful about the links you click and the websites that you spend on. But then it happens. You’re locked out of your social media account. You’ve spotted a $500 charge at a fitness boutique on the other side of the world. Friends have received emails from you asking for money.  

You’ve been hacked. How did it happen? How did it happen to you!  

The reality is that even with the greatest of care and being mindful about the precautions we take, even the smallest slip up can compromise our personal information. Don’t blame yourself, cybercriminals are working tirelessly to find new ways to part people from their money and their identity. 

Pay closer attention to incoming emails 

Criminals have long been known for taking advantage of a disaster or crisis. An earthquake in Haiti or a tornado in Texas. They can tug at our heartstrings and make us want to help those who are in crisis. Fundraising scams are some of the top ways that cybercriminals target people. Beyond parting you from your hard-earned money, these cybercriminals will use phishing emails to get your personal information from you. The emails they send may also contain links that install malware on your device. 

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the introduction of email scams that claimed to help people gain access to funds from the government. Recipients were led to believe that if they shared their bank account information, they’d get the money promised to them by the government. The government, whether the IRS or FTC, will not contact you to ask for your bank account information. Stimulus scams are still running rampant, despite there being plenty of information about what is and isn’t being distributed by the government. 

Help protect yourself by being aware and suspicious of emails from senders you don’t recognize. Don’t click on links in emails unless it is clear where they will take you. If you’re on your mobile device, it might be more difficult to hover over the link. If in doubt, simply don’t click. 

Never download an attachment unless it’s abundantly clear who sent it to you and what it is. 

Rethink your password strategy 

It can be tedious to come up with highly secure passwords for every system, site, and app that you use. It’s easy to see how we can find it easier to opt for one single password used across everything we access. Easier, yes. Potentially problematic, absolutely. 

A highly secure password could be all that’s keeping criminals from doing serious damage to your finances and with your private data.  

Evaluate your passwords, how can you improve them? How can you improve your password security overall? 

Most web browsers make it convenient to save usernames and passwords, along with credit card details. Convenient it may be, it’s also a security risk. Skilled hackers can bypass any built-in browser security and gain access to your saved data. This could give them access to your bank accounts, credit cards, medical records, social security number, tax records, and so much more. 

Here are a few strategy tips for creating a password: 

  • Your password should include a mix up of uppercase and lower case. 
  • Mix in non-sequential numbers, avoid using birthdays or other important dates. 
  • Use non-sensical words. Password should never be used as your password. Not even ironically. 
  • Don’t reuse passwords across systems or apps. It’s easier but it’s not the best practice. 
  • Skip using personal information like the name of your child, pet, or spouse. 
  • There are password managers that have robust security built into them. They can help you to better secure your data.  

It can be a pain to keep up with secure passwords, but it is much less of a pain than the work you’d need to do to restore your finances and credit. 

Don’t forget the passwords used to secure your personal and work devices. Using a four-digit password for your phone is easy to remember but it can also put you at serious security risk if your phone or tablet are stolen. Create a more secure password for your devices or take advantage of integrated biometric security solutions. 

Take care about what you’re posting on social media 

Your social media accounts can prove to be a veritable treasure trove for would-be cybercriminals. From information you share with purpose to other information that can be figured out with little details you aren’t even aware of. 

Some of this could include the following: 

  • The names of your children and pets 
  • The street name you grew up on 
  • Details about your first car 
  • Information about the school you went to and the teachers you had 
  • The company you work for 
  • Photos that have little details about your personal life or your work life 

All of this information can be used to crack your passwords. Lock down your social media accounts, take care about what you post, and only allow family and friends access to the information that you share.  

Don’t keep sensitive information on your devices 

It’s convenient to keep sensitive data on your phone, laptop, or in your email. But if you are hacked, all of this sensitive information is now right at the hands of the cybercriminal. Cybercriminals will not hesitate to exploit any sensitive information that they get access to. 

Avoid using public Wi-Fi 

It’s pretty convenient to use the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, library, or airport. What you may not know is that cybercriminals will intentionally boot users off the public Wi-Fi so that they are forced to log back on. When the users log back on, it’s to a fake Wi-Fi network with a similar name to the one they were just on. 

Once the user logs onto the fake network, they have now given the hacker access to all their connected devices. This is an opportunity for cybercriminals to deliver malware and other malicious software. Not to mention that they’ll have complete access to the files on your device. 

Skip using Wi-Fi in public locales. The convenience isn’t worth the trouble it can cause. 

If you get hacked – stay calm 

It can be frustrating and overwhelming when you realize that you’ve been hacked. The good news is that it’s possible to help secure your devices, protect yourself going forward, and work to resolve the financial fallout. 

Don’t let your guard down when it comes to your devices and being online. View communications from strangers with a critical eye. Hackers will use almost any available entry point as a way to get what they want. Whether that’s through email, public Wi-Fi or through social engineering. 

Keeping your guard up will help you to protect yourself and your loved ones from the damage a cybercriminal can unleash.