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You probably don’t think about “celebrating” cybersecurity or partying for Cybersecurity Awareness Month. 

But when you learn how easy it is for your sensitive information to be compromised by hackers and scammers, each day of cybersecurity safety feels like a gift. It may sound dramatic, but many people don’t realize how close they are to becoming a victim of identity theft, bank fraud, and more. 

Your friend who got hacked on Facebook and tried to sell you discount sunglasses? They’re just as likely to have their credit card info stolen. The coworker whose work email got hacked and sent you a flood of spam emails? They could just as easily compromise sensitive company information and trade secrets. The Hollywood celebrity who had their personal photos leaked online? Their fortunes are just as susceptible to bank fraud as any average Joe who uses the same password for various logins.

The good thing is, many companies like social media platforms and banks that use sensitive information have measures in place like password requirements and two-factor authentication to help their customers avoid becoming victims of cybersecurity breaches. 

However, the biggest weaknesses in cybersecurity come from user error.

Here are the best ways to avoid getting hacked online and becoming a victim of a cybersecurity breach.

Better password management

We’re all guilty of it: Using the same password for an email address, online banking login, Netflix profile, and Spotify account. 

Luckily, most online logins these days require passwords at least a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters to make them harder to hack. But if you use universal passwords, all it takes is one bad actor to hack your email, and then have your  Amazon account, mortgage payment portal, and Snapchat compromised.

Every login you use should have a unique password comprised of letters, numbers, and special characters. Never store them on a word processor document, Google doc, or online spreadsheet with a filename like “passwords” or “login info.”

The safest bet to keep your various usernames and passwords secure is with a password manager. All your logins and passwords are safely secured in one place, so you don’t have to remember them by heart or keep them on a document that can be compromised itself.

Update software, settings, and passwords often

Frequently updating passwords gives you an added layer of cybersecurity, and it’s easy to keep track of them when you use a password manager.

Similarly, updating software like your iPhone’s iOS or your Google Chrome browser helps fight phishing attacks and hacking attempts. These companies constantly update their software to repair security weaknesses and troubleshoot bugs that could lead to sensitive info breaches.

Spend the short time now to update your passwords and software to avoid hours of headaches that could come with compromised passwords later!

Know how to spot phishing attempts and hacking threats

All the best cybersecurity tech in the world is useless if a user willingly gives up sensitive information through a phishing scam. 

And unfortunately, the increase in employees working from home has skyrocketed intrusion attempts by hackers since the start of the pandemic. Whether it’s your personal email or work email, the common signs of online phishing attacks to watch for include:

  • Links in emails from unknown senders
  • Urgent language, like an “immediate need” or limited time offer
  • Messages from someone you “know” with a new or unknown email address

Whenever possible, call a known number or speak directly with the sender of an unusual email if it feels suspicious, out of character, or has an offer that’s too good to be true. 

Never give personal information away online to anyone you’ve never met or worked with before.

Multi-factor authentication 

Did you know Donald Trump’s twitter account was hacked on two separate occasions by hackers who simply guessed his password? Even though the former president’s account was easily accessed with the password “maga2020!” he still could have avoided being hacked by using two-factor authentication—but he didn’t.

Multi-factor authentication simply adds a second step to the login process to double up the security. 

A confirmation code sent via text message is one of the most common forms of two-factor authentication that most of us have used at some point. Check out this article for a deep dive on the benefits of two-factor authentication.

Think of it like the digital version of the second key needed to access a safe deposit box. Even if your password is as easy to guess as the former president’s, the second key would still keep 99.9% of hackers and phishers out. 

Stay aware of common cybersecurity threats and safety measures

Hackers and phishers come up with new ways to steal identities and sensitive information every single day. Luckily, financial agencies like the FDIC are actively combating these measures every day, too. 

Check out this comprehensive guide from the FDIC on steps you can take to stay on top of cybersecurity in your life. 

And if you want to join us in observing Cybersecurity Awareness Month this year, check out the latest news and tips from the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.

Don’t forget to invite us to your Cybersecurity Awareness Party!