Hacking: Is Cybercrime A Real Threat?

Are You Worried About Cybercrime? 

Here are 5 tips to stay safe online.

Hacking is real.  Just ask anyone who discovered their computer, device or email was hacked.  How does it happen, and what can you do to protect your data and devices from hacking and cybercrimes? 

The best defense is a strong offense

Recently I sat down with David Nicklas, Senior Information Security Specialist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.  Here are some defense tactics he shared with me to protect yourself from hacking.  Click here to watch the interview.

Stay Up To Date

Check your computer or device for updates at least weekly.  An outdated operating system or software leaves your device vulnerable to hacking  Most devices today will notify you when an update is available.  Don't ignore update alerts!  Keeping your computer and software updated is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from cybercrime and hacking.

Back Up Regularly

If you are hacked, having a recent backup will help you recover most (if not all) of your data.  Consider purchasing an external harddrive and copy important files.  Set your computer or device up for daily automatic backups.  If you're not sure how to do this, contact the manufacturer or your service provider.

Phishing Anyone?

Most attacks happen through email phishing scams.  And the scammers are clever.  They send an email that looks like it is from your financial institution, insurance company, or government office.  Often they include an attachment.  How can you tell if the message is legit, or a fake? If it came from a company you do business with, call them using the number you know and not the one in the message.  If the message came from your credit card for example, use the phone number that is on your credit card to verify if the message is real.  If the message is looking for any "PII" (sensitive) information, it's probably fake.  Look at the sender's email address, and look for spelling errors.  If the address looks weird, it's probably fake.  Financial institutions will NEVER call or email you for sensitive information.  When in doubt, delete, and don't open the attachment!

Update Passwords

Make a habit of updating passwords for your online financial sites regularly.  I know, remembering them is a pain!  Avoid the temptation to use the same password for all your sites.  You are leaving yourself wide open if you do.  If remembering passwords is a challenge, consider subscribing to a password management service.  You can store passwords in an encrypted vault and retrieve them using one master password.

Avoid Public Wi-Fi

Unsecured public wireless access points are easy to intercept. It is much safer to use secure Wi-Fi networks. If you use your laptop or mobile devices while away from your private network, consider purchasing a subscription to a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Many cell phone plans provide a personal hotspot where the networks are password protected and have additional levels of security.

Final Thoughts

It's important to understand potential cyber threats and take steps to minimize them. When it comes to protecting your financial accounts, use common sense.  Before sending an email, review it to make sure it doesn't contain data you don't want in the wrong hands.  Review attachments for non-public PII information (tax ID numbers, dates of birth, social security numbers, account and policy numbers).  Practicing common sense in your online habits and keeping your computer up to date will significantly improve your online security and reduce your risk of cybercrime and hacking.

About the author 

Therese Nicklas

Therese Nicklas is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Certified Money Coach(CMC)®, and Certified Success Principles™ Coach. She specializes in helping executive women who are at a crossroads and feel uncertain about their next steps. By empowering them with smart money strategies, they learn how to build their new big, bold life with certainty, clarity, and confidence. She is passionate about inspiring women to design a fulfilled, intentional life. “True wealth – true financial freedom – is being free to focus on the things that matter most to you – what money can’t buy.” Her motto – “live your life by design and not by default”.

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