As hackers and cybercriminals are becoming more creative and growing in numbers, many consumers have trouble staying ahead of the new threats that emerge daily, struggling to decide what to do or not do. But with a few common-sense steps and a bit of vigilance about potential cyber threats, consumers can raise their comfort level about online safety.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center 2018 Internet Crime Report includes information from nearly 352,000 complaints of suspected Internet crime, with reported losses in excess of $2.7 billion. The top three crime types reported were non-payment/non-delivery, extortion, and personal data breach.
No target too small
If you think your home network is too small of a target for a cyberattack or that the many connected devices present in your home have built-in security that’s good enough, you are wrong on both counts.
Most cyberattacks are not personal in nature. Rather, they are crimes of opportunity, made possible by faulty security practices for devices and networks. If it’s connected to the internet, it’s susceptible to outside threats unless precautions are taken.
One such precaution is to stay current with software updates and patches for all devices that connect to the internet. Software updates add new features and functions, but, in many instances, they also include critical fixes that counter real threats or vulnerabilities that have been identified. Delaying software updates only serves to raise the odds of an attack.
Smart phones, tablets, and desktop and laptop computers typically have an auto-updating feature, but many other connected devices do not. Be sure to check regularly for software updates on routers, and any other devices around your home that connect to the internet, or to computers and mobile devices, most often by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Close to home
When adding new devices to your home network, be sure to change the factory-installed default configurations, usernames, and passwords. Leaving these unchanged creates opportunities for outsiders to gain unauthorized access to information, install malicious software (malware), and cause other problems.
Always proceed with a “buyer beware” mindset before buying a new connected device. Do a little research first. There are a variety of ways to see if a vendor or product has known privacy or security issues. You can search for vendors and specific products to see if they have known vulnerabilities, and whether they’ve been patched.
Another option is to visit the Better Business Bureau site to see if other customers have reported issues or if there are government actions against the company. You can also use your favorite search engine to look for the product or vendor name with the word “recall” in the search to see if there are any recalls under way.
Finally, make it a habit to regularly back up your data and valuable information, either to an external device or to a cloud-based service. These backups are crucial to minimizing the impact if data is lost, corrupted, infected, or stolen.