June is National Internet Safety month - guard yourself against cyber thieves

·3 min read
Rick Walz writes the "Consumer Advocate"
Rick Walz writes the "Consumer Advocate"

In 2010, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution designating June as National Internet Safety month and calling on Internet safety organizations, law enforcement, educators, community leaders, parents, and volunteers to increase efforts to raise the level of awareness in the United States regarding the need for online safety.

While it may seem like there is nothing an individual can do to stop a cyberattack, there are some best practices that consumers and businesses can take to help guard against losing important personal information to cyber thieves. The Better Business Bureau and the National Cyber Security Alliance offer these tips to help keep your critical information protected:

· Manage privacy settings. Check the privacy and security settings on web services and apps and set them to your comfort level for information sharing. Each device, application or browser used will have different features to limit how and with whom you share information.

· Personal info is like money: Value it. Protect it. Personal information, such as purchase history, IP address, or location, has tremendous value to businesses – just like money. Make informed decisions about whether or not to share data with certain businesses by considering the amount of personal information they are asking for, and weighing it against the benefits you may receive in return.

· Make your passwords long and strong. Use long passwords with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols – eight characters for most accounts, twelve characters for email and financial accounts. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts, especially email and financial. Keep a paper list of your passwords in a safe place, not on or near your computer. Consider using a password vault application.

· Keep tabs on apps. Many apps ask for access to personal information, such as geographic location, contacts list and photo album, before using their services. Be thoughtful about who gets that information, and wary of apps that require access to information that is not required or relevant for the services they are offering. Delete unused apps on your internet-connect devices and keep others secure by performing updates.

· Lock down your login. For your online accounts, use the strongest authentication tools available. Your user names and passwords are not enough; consider two-factor authentication for key accounts like email, banking, and social media, especially for access on mobile devices.

· Don’t click on unfamiliar links. Whether at home or at work, don’t click on links from unfamiliar sources or unexpected correspondence. One false click can infect a whole computer… or a whole business.

· Pay attention to internet-connected devices. Smart thermostats, voice control systems, cars, even refrigerators are just the beginning of the growing list of devices that watch our homes and track our location. Read the privacy policy and understand what data is being collected and how it will be used.

For more tips and scam prevention, visit BBB.org. If you see a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Whether you’ve lost money or not, your story could help others avoid a scam.

Rick Walz is the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana, which serves 23 counties. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org. 

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Consumer Advocate: Guard yourself against cyber thieves