Cybersecurity New Years’ Resolutions

New Years is a great time to reboot your life habits, including diet, exercise, relationships, and more. To keep your systems safe and your personal information private, consider adopting one or more of the following News Years’ resolutions:

  • Use strong passwords – On each website and service you use, construct strong passwords, consisting of lower case and upper case letters, numbers, and one or more special characters.
  • Use unique passwords – Use a different password for each service you use. This will help prevent a compromise of one service (where cybercriminals are able to obtain its users’ login credentials) from spreading to others.
  • Use a password manager – If you use strong, unique passwords, you’ll need a password manager such as Password Safe or KeePass to store them. I recommend you NOT use your browser to store passwords.
  • Use multi-factor authentication – when available, select multi-factor authentication, whether by a text message (SMS), or an authenticator app such as Google Authenticator. Doing so will make it more difficult for criminals to break into your accounts.
  • Install OS security patches – Configure your operating system (Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, iOS, Android, etc.) to automatically download and install security patches. This helps prevent criminals from compromising your device. When security patches are no longer available, you’ll need to upgrade your OS to keep your system safe.
  • Keep applications up to date – Configure your system to update all of the applications you use. This helps keep your system and your data safer by fixing security flaws that criminals can exploit.
  • Be wary of spam and phishing – Be wary of all incoming email, so that you can better spot scams and fraud. If someone you know has sent you a strange looking email, confirm by calling them (but not by replying, as the reply could go back to the fraudster who is trying to con you). Resist the temptation to click on “too good to be true” links and attachments.
  • Use a VPN – If you frequently go online at hotels, restaurants, airports, and other public places, install a VPN software package to help protect your network traffic from prying eyes. It can be surprisingly easy for cybercriminals to see your network traffic while on a public Wi-Fi network. Avoid free VPN services as they likely eavesdrop on your traffic.
  • Upgrade your home Wi-Fi router – If your home Wi-Fi router is more than four years old, chances are good that it has exploitable vulnerabilities that the manufacturer will not fix. These vulnerabilities can make it easy for criminals to take over control of your router, resulting in eavesdropping and routing your traffic through their systems to help them steal your data.
  • Move your home’s smart devices to your guest Wi-Fi – Often, smart devices are vulnerable to attack by cybercriminals. Some smart devices do more than they advertise, looking around on your network for other targets. Moving your smart devices to your guest network prevents them from accessing your computers and smartphones.
  • Check your credit report – Cybercriminals are exceedingly good at identity theft. The best way to stay on top of this is to periodically check your credit report, and even to put a freeze on your credit to make it more difficult for criminals to open credit accounts in your name. Freezing your credit may be a minor inconvenience when you try to open a new account, but this is minor when compared to the inconvenience of having your identity stolen.
  • Place transaction alerts on all your credit and debit cards – Log in to your online banking and set up alerts (texting, email, or both) to notify you of every transaction. If any of your cards have been compromised, you’ll know it when you see transactions that you did not authorize.
  • Learn more about these and other kinds of risks – Visit the National Cybersecurity Alliance at www.staysafeonline.org to learn about more steps to protect your network, systems, and identity.
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