6 Super Useful Tips To Improve Cyber Security

by Melanie Nichols

This is important for all of us...

I had this post planned to be written this week, but days before I got to it, we were hit!

More about this later...

This event taught us two things. First why taking steps to secure yourself online is important. And lastly gave us an education in what steps to take when you have been hit...

Let me start with preventative... the 6 Super Useful Tips to prevent online issues, notably Identity Theft.
Not only on your laptop or desktop, but also your smartphone.

Be sure to select a software that protects against all types of malware infections (such as viruses, worms or Trojan horses).

Keep this software up to date!
The biggest complaint I hear about people doing this is... "When I update it, things stop working."

After looking into the habits of those folks what I usually find is they fear the update, so wait until it is absolutely required, and by then they are so far behind, it is a huge chore to get them back into the latest of everything.

I highly suspect their issue with things "breaking" is related to this issue, not the updates themselves.

Being an retired IT professional, I have always been of the school of ... keep up to date with the latest releases. And because of that practice, I don't experience these "breaks".

The reason it is important to keep up to date... any security issue found and fixed, is released in software updates. There are usually other fixes in each update, but the most important is closing security holes as soon as possible.
There are several important keys to keeping your online accounts safe with passwords.

1. Use a unique password for each site. This way is one of your passwords does get into the wrong hands, they don't also have access to other online accounts.

2. Make your passwords complex. By that I mean, don't use easy to guess passwords. Make them long and meaningless. A good way to get a secure password is to use a password generator like:

3. To make it easier for you to actually follow the steps above, I highly recommend using a tool to help you use these passwords and not cheat these guidelines. There are many out there, but my personal recommendation is LastPass:

LastPass can run on all your devices so you have your account and password information where ever you are... and you don't have to write passwords down or worry about forgetting them.
While it may seem like social media and our online world is getting more and more "real"... but keep in mond there are several things you should never share online.

1. Your current location. If you are not home, sharing that fact could let people know it is now safe to go to your home and relieve you of its content. This also means you may want to wait to talk about your vacation until you return home.

2. Personal information like your birthdate, names of your pets, your maiden name. or other identifying informatoin you use as security questions anywhere. Identity theives are very sophisticated and know you use this type of information so can make use of it.

3. Personal details of your life, health, your financial situation, or have an all out online argument with someone online. It just leaves you vulnerable and in most cases can make you look silly (for online arguing that is...) Believe me, I've seen this done, and even have found myself involved. It's easy to do.
If any online contest asks for personal and security related questions, including payment for anything, this is almost 100% certain to be a case of fraud.

There are lots of FB apps that if you allow them to connect to your facebook account will let you learn cool things, like what your spirit animal is, or what disney princess you are most like, or what celebrity you look like.. and on and on... and giving them access to your FB account allows them to then market to all your friends and their friends.

I'm not saying they are all malicious, just be aware of what you are sharing and be sure to keep yourself and your friends safe by following your instincts.
Important rules to follow around this area:

1. Never respond to any email or phone call that requires your personal information for any reason.

There are many attempts made that sound legitimate, but first know that most reputable companies will never contact you and request that kind of information. If you have reason to think it might be valid, go directly to the source and verify they do indeed want the information.

2. Don't click or respond to anything that tells you your computer needs an update, has been hacked and they can recover it for you, has a performance problem and they need access to correct.

What to do When You Are A Victim of Identity Theft

So, as technically savvy as my household is, we found ourselves the victim of a phishing email.

Here's how it happened:

My husband received an email early in the morning, too soon before the requisite coffee had reach it's critical mass for him.

It looks oh so official.

He was told in this email from "Amazon" that someone has tried to get into his account and if that wasn't him, he needed to secure his account.

Ok, it definitely wasn't me, he thought, I'll hit the official looking link to secure my account.

He was taken to a page that looked very much like it was Amazon.com ... and he proceeded to "secure" his account by answering the security questions they have.... Name, address, social security number, phone number, and credit card number on the account.

He gave it all up.

Fortunately he mentioned to me about an hour later that Amazon wanted a surprising amount of data to secure his account.

My antennae picked up on the potential security breach we had just experienced.

Our first step was to call Amazon Customer Support to see if that email had indeed been sent from them. No, we were informed, they had not sent that email. NOR would they have every sent such an email.

Clearly we had been had.

So we immediately started jumping through hoops to get things locked down so it didn't get worse.

BIG NOTE HERE... because this much information is now out on the black market, we have to keep a security freeze on our credit at all times. Not impossible to work with, just making it more difficult for us when we do intend to use credit for anything.

Here is an article that we used to take all the steps necessary to make sure our accounts and credit is secure.

12 Point Checklist for Victims of Identity Theft, on Bankrate.com

If, or dare I say when, you find your self in a similar situation, this is very valuable information.

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