The internet plays many important roles in our lives: it provides up-to-date information, it entertains us, it offers limitless opportunities for lifelong learning, and it keeps us in touch with loved ones. It’s one of the easiest diversions from the stressors of everyday life and a pastime that many of us turn to regularly.
The internet is so dominant in our daily lives, that it’s imperative we take steps to protect ourselves from potential dangers online, such as cybercrime. Here are four tips to avoid the exploits of cybercriminals, navigate through common pitfalls, and flex your cyber resilience muscles.
1. Use the buddy system: Identify one person you can turn to when you receive a phone call, email, or text message that makes you feel uncomfortable. Cybercriminals exploit human nature, so having someone in your corner that you trust and can talk through suspicious requests with can be a lifesaver. Friends, family members, public librarians, and even bank employees are some examples that can fill this role. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
2. Carefully examine web addresses and links: Cybercriminals take advantage of our tendency to hurry or not read every web address and link before we type, click, or tap. They also use sneaky tactics, such as adding a lowercase l, uppercase I, or extra periods, to trick you into visiting malicious sites. Careful inspection will keep you from entering your debit card information at www.wallmart.com rather than https:/www.walmart.com. It will prevent you from entering your username and password at https://www.update-citi.com (fake website designed to collect your username and password) rather than https://www.citi.com (legitimate website for customers of Citibank). By just taking a few seconds to inspect a link more carefully, you can save both time and stress in the long run.
3. Update passwords: Yes—it’s a tedious chore. However, if you use the same password for every account you have and a cybercriminal figures out what that password is, they can access your accounts and lock you out of them. One important account that needs a strong password is email. Your email account is often used to reset passwords on all other accounts. Start by updating the password for your email, banking accounts, retirement accounts, and pensions. The process of updating passwords will become easier the more often you do it.
4. Set up two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication is a setting that can be enabled on most online accounts. It requires anyone logging into an account to have the password AND an email, text message, or code to complete the login process. Two-factor authentication should be set up across your most important accounts: email, pensions, banking, and retirement. This extra layer of security can help protect your account should a password be leaked.
Shoring up your cyber resilience is an ongoing pursuit that can be transformed from a chore to a competency if you choose to commit to building your skills a couple of times a year. The Oasis Connections program has been teaching people cyber resilience since 2004. Our team of experts can help you implement security awareness in your personal life so that you can go forward and make safer, more informed decisions online. The Connections program offers live Zoom classes, short videos, and free resources such as the 2022 Oasis Cyber Tip Sheet, and the 2022 Cybersecurity Bundle, designed for older adult learners to start transforming technology from a barrier to a tool.