It’s a certainty that your computer network and other devices at the office are protected by antivirus software because cybercrime is one of the most significant economic threats to businesses worldwide. But do you need it at home when all that your various family members usually do is connect on social media, pay a few bills, do schoolwork, and play games?
Well, you lock the doors to your house, don’t you? You don’t let strangers in, nor give any of your personal information to callers you don’t know, right? You’ve got smoke detectors and maybe even security cameras and an alarm system.
If you’re that vigilant about your family’s security in real life, you shouldn’t be any less careful about its virtual life. If you don’t have strong antivirus software protecting all the electronic devices your family uses, you’ve left a huge vulnerability gap in everyone’s safety.
The truth is that even security software isn’t 100% foolproof protection against scammers and other cybercriminals who are anxious to wreak havoc on your finances and other aspects of your family’s life.
That’s why everyone from the adults to the youngest kids needs to know the precautions to take when they’re using their phones, their laptops, and all the other electronic paraphernalia that connects to the Internet.
Even if the rules have been drilled into everyone before, we all tend to get lazy and let things slip. So here are the rules all family members should refresh themselves on:
Use Guess-Proof Passwords
If you want to make it really easy for hackers, use the passwords “123456789”, “1111111”, “qwerty” or the word “password” itself. It does seem crazy, but those have been among the most common passwords for years, despite the fact that they’re ridiculously easy to guess and are like handing your debit card anyone who asks for it. You can take a look at the rest of the worst 100 passwords, but only as a guide to what not to do.
A password should employ a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols and shouldn’t rely on words that are spelt the way they are in the dictionary. Security experts suggest that you begin with a phrase that you can remember, and then scatter numbers and symbols within it. Experts also recommend changing passwords periodically, which you probably won’t do. So make them tough, to begin with.
Keep Personal Information Under Wraps
Use discretion in giving out the specifics of personal information on social media, game, and networking sites. It’s not difficult at all for someone to find out a great deal about you from what you post, particularly when they combine it with what they can find in a simple online search of your name.
Don’t announce the dates you’ll be out of town, for example, or identifying details about your kids’ schedules. It doesn’t take a criminal mastermind to put the pieces together and know when no one will be at home.
Information you put out there remains on the Internet forever, and if it’s not something you’d share with strangers in person, then don’t tell it to them online. This should be impressed on kids especially, since they’re likely to trust that everyone who “friends” them has the best of intentions in mind.
Be Careful With Your Inbox
Most computer viruses and other malware invasions are caused by downloading attachments or activating links that appear in unsolicited communications. And with phishing so common, it’s important to take the extra minute to inspect the originating URL and “reply to” addresses for inconsistencies and irregular spellings.
If you’ve got any reason to suspect the legitimacy of the correspondence even from your bank, for example, contact the source directly for verification. Hacked email can also be sent under the names of people you know, too, so beware of links that seem wonky even if you know the sender.
Use Secure Wi-Fi
Transmissions on free public Wi-Fi can be easily intercepted. Unless you’re at home or know that you’re using a legitimate hotspot, don’t connect to sites that store your credit card or banking information. Disable your smartphone’s default Wi-Fi access and use your phone’s network rather than public Wi-Fi. It’s better still if you can use a virtual private network (VPN).
You don’t have to scare everyone in the family out of their wits, but a reasonable amount of caution will keep them all a lot safer and happier in the online world.