The coronavirus has changed the world, and most of us have been paying strict attention to the precautions we’ve got to take to protect ourselves and our loved ones from it. But maybe not as immediately obvious, and happily not as potentially fatal, are the computer viruses and other threats that can readily attack our families’ security.
According to the United Nations, cybercrime is experiencing a dramatic rise during this pandemic. A recent report to the Security Council warns that “growing digital dependency has increased the vulnerability to cyberattacks, and it is estimated that one such attack takes place every 39 seconds.”
No doubt the computer network and other devices at your office are protected by antivirus software because cybercrime is one of the most significant economic threats to businesses worldwide. But if you’re currently working from home, you need the most up-to-date antivirus security software there is. And so does your family, even if all they do is connect on social media, pay bills, do schoolwork, and play games.
You probably know, though, that even security software isn’t 100% positive protection against the cybercriminals who’d be all too happy to disrupt your finances and other aspects of your family’s life. That’s why everyone who plugs in, from the adults to the youngest kids, needs to know the precautions to take when they’re using their phones, laptops and all the other electronic gadgets and gizmos that connect to the Internet.
The rules are really simple. And maybe that’s why we all tend to get lazy and let them slip. So here’s what you and your family members should refresh yourself on:
Use Bullet-Proof Passwords
It’s estimated that about 60% of people create their passwords using personal information like a family member’s birthday, a pet or relative’s name, or even their own street address. What’s worse, among the most common passwords for years have been “123456789”, “1111111”, “qwerty” and the word “password” itself. All of these are insanely easy to guess and are like handing your debit card to any stranger you see. You can peek at the rest of the worst 100 passwords, but only as a guide to what not to do.
A password should employ a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols and shouldn’t rely on words that are spelled the standard way. One suggestion is that you begin with a phrase that you can remember, and then change it up with numbers and symbols. (A ! instead of an I, for example.) Experts also recommend changing passwords routinely and using a different one for every account, which you probably won’t do. So make them really tough to begin with.
Don’t Publicize Personal Information
Everything you put out there on social media, networking and game sites remains on the Internet forever, and ultimately almost anyone can find out almost everything about you. Especially when they combine what you post with what they can find in a simple online search of your name. This should be impressed on kids in particular since they don’t have the discretion to know that not everyone who “friends” them has friendship in mind.
Be cautious of taking social media quizzes and surveys that ask questions about your first car, your favorite musical group or movie, where you were born, or any of a number of other questions that, coincidence or not, are the same questions you might be asked when you want to re-set a security password. If you can use the answers to gain access to your accounts, so can a hacker.
Be Careful With Email
Most computer viruses and other malware invasions are caused by downloading attachments or activating links that appear in unsolicited communications. And with phishing ubiquitous, it’s important to take the extra minute to inspect the originating URL and “reply to” addresses for inconsistencies and irregular spellings. If you’ve got any reason to suspect correspondence even from your bank, for example, contact the source directly for verification. Hacked email can also be sent under the names of people you know, too, so beware of links that seem wonky even if you know the sender.
All this isn’t to say you should live in fear of the Internet, but exercising a reasonable amount of caution will keep everyone in the family a whole lot more secure.