Are you a Cyber Security Target? Protecting your Digital Identity

Privacy is dead.

With the influx of social sharing and geolocation services, the fact is, the internet might know more about you than do many of your close friends. In  a test of this theory, an online investigator only needed one hour to uncover intimate details of one woman's life, including her relatives, all 41 countries and 161 towns she'd visited, not to mention her schooling and previous employment.

While we may not be able to dissuade you from some aspects of the social sharing revolution, there are some steps you can take to avoid truly confidential information, like where you live and your bank account, from getting into the wrong hands. Read on for security tips on how to keep yourself cyber-secure.

Be Smart About Passwords

When presented with that "create a password" screen, there's two things that typically immediately jump to mind: "password" and "123".

Don't even think about it.

According to  Splash Data, the most popular passwords- and the most likely to be hacked- were ones that included password or a string of consecutive numbers. Here's their round-up of the worst passwords of 2012:

  • password
  • 123456
  • 12345678
  • abc123
  • qwerty
  • monkey
  • letmein
  • dragon
  • 111111
  • baseball

Choosing a smart password

Our CTO and general security guru, Ryan McElrath, weighed in on the best way to create a password. "Create strong passwords for your different accounts that have at least eight characters, made up of upper-case/lower-case letters, numbers and at least one special character." Stuck on choosing a password you'll remember? Choose a phrase of words and include spaces or underscores, like "Home at 6!"

Change it up

It might not be convenient or easy to remember a frequently updated password, but it might mean the difference between a hacked account and one that remains safely in your hands. McElrath suggests changing your passwords every 3 months.

Another password no-no is using the same password on multiple sites. "If you use the same password on multiple sites, then all of your accounts are in danger if any of those sites are ever compromised," explained McElrath. "Millions of users recently had their passwords leaked on the Internet. If those users had that same password on Facebook, then their Facebook accounts would be in danger of being compromised as well."

Be Ready for Attacks

Unfortunately, we don't live in a world where you can surf the net worry-free. Even if you avoid phishing and scam sites, you may be prone to attacks from unexpected sources.

Get Antivirus Software

Use the latest anti-virus software on your computer and regularly check for updates. Typically, updates include the latest virus definitions.

Update all software

Get your computer set up so it’s automatically patched when software vendors release updates to protect against the latest security vulnerabilities. This includes the underlying operating system (e.g. Windows or Mac) and other software on the computer (e.g. Adobe Flash).

Don't open suspicious attachments!

It's tempting to peek at attachments from people you don't know (what if Vacationz4Freedoes have a free trip for me?), but it's not worth satisfying your curiosity. Any suspicious-looking email or attachments, from people you do or don’t know, should be left unopened.

Don't Share This

It might sound like a good idea to check in, share a photo, or tweet to a new follower, but there are some things you should avoid sharing on your open or closed networks.  Consumer Reports claims that 52% of social network site users posted personal information that make them vulnerable to cyber attacks. Some of the most commonly shared personal information included:

  • Email address
  • Birth date with year
  • Photos of children
  • Children's names
  • Home street address
  • Information indicating when they will be home or away
  • Name of your bank
  • Your password
  • Any common banking questions, like "What's the name of your first pet?" "What's your mother's maiden name?" "What was your high school mascot?" and "What's the name of the first street you lived on?"
  • Sensitive or confidential information about your job

When it comes to social media, healthy suspicion is the best policy. If you think someone could use anything you share against you, don't post it, message it, or tweet it.  

You've heard our tips. What personal cybersecurity rules do you follow? Share your thoughts with us below! 

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