All you want to do is find out what friends and family are up to on Facebook, right? And why should paying a few bills from your sofa or ordering a drone online be fraught with risk?
Because it is. Welcome to the new normal and take a few simple steps to avoid becoming a victim.
Be strong – memorize your passwords
Ever wonder about the strength of your passwords? Find out how long it would take to crack them at How Secure is My Password? When a friend typed in one of hers, the hack-time was more than a thousand years, the sign of super-strong security. Another friend learned that hers would take a mere fifteen minutes to hack! Note: Plug your passwords into a system NOT connected to your personal laptop, tablet or phone – your local library is one suggestion.
Microsoft Tips advises you to make passwords at least eight characters long. Don’t use your real name or your company name, and don’t include a complete word. Also, make them different from previous passwords.
Constable Bridget Avis from Community Policing/Victim Services is required to use passwords with no fewer than 12 characters within her RCMP detachment. She recommends memorizing a really long password, one that includes upper and lower case letters as well as symbols. “And never write them down!” she says. With the need for many passwords in a typical day, Cst. Avis creates multiple versions of the same core password.
There’s more: I downloaded Ccleaner.com and do a quick clean before I shutdown. For sure ‘clean’ your system after any online banking or purchases.
Ever receive an email advising there’s $250 ready to spend in your PayPal account? All you have to do is click a link? Don’t click, this is a phishing attack. Whether the stranger contacting you pretends to be from your bank or from any other legit business, beware.
Some impending victims receive threatening emails from Revenue Canada or the police. The messages have company headers and logos, and they look official on first glance. But on closer inspection, you’ll often find typos and oddities. If the message is from a bank you use and you’re not sure, give your branch a call. Ask if they sent you a request for action; most likely they didn’t.
Too late, you’ve been hacked? While you might be embarrassed, you shouldn’t. Instead of feeling like a victim, take a warrior stance. Let the police know after you’ve been hacked or lost money. Report the crime and consider informing the media in your area. Criminals don’t like publicity. And authorities benefit from the evidence you share. We’re all potential victims – an aware community is a safer community.
Although the process of repairing your credit and/or bank account is time-consuming, often daunting, now you have a story to share. And now you can avoid a future hack. Since you know (or learned the hard way) how to deal with hacking risks, you can feel less intimidated when banking online and enjoying a myriad of social media.
Try not to grow paranoid – this clichéd ship has sailed for me – but be fraud-aware. Protect your privacy and make it harder for hackers to access your personal information.
How do you protect yourself online? And what kinds of hacks have you been a victim?
[Photos from morgueFile:
Lock by pippalou
Confused computer by ladyheart
Child on phone by Helenka]
Shannon Kernaghan Professional writer and researcher Shannon Kernaghan has created great content in many print and online forms, for industries and professional groups across the U.S. and Canada.
Visit Shannon’s Blog / Website: www.shannonkernaghan.com