Cybersecurity 101

Cybercriminals and scammers rarely break into your digital domain by force. Usually, they try to trick victims into handing over the keys to their bank accounts, sensitive information, and other data. Their tactics can be effective, if you don’t know the red flags (link to scam primer article) 

Scammers prefer easy targets. By taking a few extra steps to protect your information, scammers will simply move on to something easier. 

Be smart with your passwords

Having a strong password is key. According to SplashData, “123456” is still a popular password, as is “password.” SplashData estimates that 10 percent of people have used one of the 25 most common passwords—easy pickings for a scammer. 

Longer passwords are inherently more secure, especially if it contains a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. It shouldn’t contain personal information, like the year you graduated high school or the year you were born. 

It’s also dangerous to use the same password for everything. If a scammer deciphers it, your entire identity could be compromised. 

We recommend utilizing a password manager app, like Dashlane or LastPass. These apps install on your desktop browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Explorer, etc.) and store your login information across several sites. That way, the only password you have to remember is the one to your password manager app. 

Keep your security up to date

Cybercriminals are constantly developing new software that can infiltrate your security system. You need to keep your security current to best protect against these threats. 

Simply activating automatic system security updates on your computer or device makes it much harder for cybercriminals to break in. 

You may also consider anti-virus protection and firewalls to defend your data. Windows and Mac OSX operating systems come with their own firewalls (Windows Firewall and Mac Firewall). It’s likely that your router also has a built-in firewall to protect your wireless network. 

When browsing the internet, use a browser that automatically updates its security, like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Don’t send any personal information when you’re connecting to the internet over a public wifi network. 

Protect sensitive information

Publishing your Personal Identifiable Information (PII) can be dangerous. This includes your phone number, birthday, email address, or anything else that might allow someone to impersonate, identify, or locate you. 

Social media has softened our scrutiny of providing personal information in an open forum. If you prefer to keep this information on your profile or profiles, we recommend restricting your privacy settings so that only people you know can see your information. It’s also wise to only accept friend requests from people you know. 

Many social media sites allow for two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is simply an extra layer in your login process. For instance, in addition to entering your user name and password, you may also be sent a code through text. 

Click responsibly

Think before you click on unknown links or media. Illegitimate sites may use malicious software that will infect your device. When it comes to emails, don’t click on unexpected attachments or links. Sites that bombard you with several download and signup buttons are suspicious and you should leave them immediately. 

When browsing, pay attention to the address bar. If the web address starts with “http” it isn’t secure. That doesn’t mean the site is dangerous or malicious, but you shouldn’t send sensitive information over that site. If the web address starts with “https” then that site is secure. Data sent to and over the site will be encrypted and protected. 

Shop smart

Online retailers are prime targets for cybercriminals because they often store your financial credentials, giving hackers access to your bank account. 

Never make an online purchase over a public wifi network, and don’t save your card details in an online account.  

Be careful about which websites you shop at, and try to make purchases only from websites you trust, or directly through a seller’s website. 

It’s also a good idea to close online accounts if you haven’t bought anything there in six months.  

Better to be over-protective than under-protective

You may think a cyber attack could never happen to you, but don’t be fooled. Hackers rarely target a specific individual. They prefer to cast a wide net that catches the most careless digital users. By taking these precautions, you can protect yourself and your family from cyber criminals.

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