A security breach may sound farfetched when you bring up to your family, but the chances of getting hacked or exposed to vulnerbilites is easier than one may think! Here are 5 easy security tips that you can share with your family, to protect yourselves online.
Me: “Hey Dad, it’s me. What have you been up to lately?”
Dad: “Oh not too much, a lot of the same ol’ thing you know? Although your Mom and I got lucky yesterday, we received an email from the bank letting us know that our account may have been hacked. They explained that it looks like nothing bad happened yet but they provided us a quick link to sign in and change our password so we were able to get ahead of it!”
Me: “ (Gasping) Oh no! Please tell me you didn’t do that!”
I think we sometimes take it for granted because we work in tech, that those people closest to us outside of work know as much as we do. We are constantly surrounded by smart, technologically sound people all day long and begin to think it’s normal, but it’s not! If you know me, you realize that I am not super technical but having worked in this industry for so many years, that I have picked up enough to allow me to know more than the average Joe or Jill, and definitely more than my parents, my kids and most of my relatives.
That’s why it’s important that all of us remember to take the time to help those closest to us. Think of many of our parents, mine were born in the early 1940s and it was totally acceptable to smoke in the office, most communication in the workplace was handled by Canada Post, and then eventually with the fax machine towards the end of their careers. PCs had only entered their lives near their retirement and cell phones were just beginning to become common at work. The older generations don’t have enough experience with technology and can easily be duped or they simply don’t know how to protect themselves.
At the other end of our spectrum, there are our kids, who have grown up in a completely different world than both our parents or ourselves. They were born in the digital age and are online for almost everything. They haven’t grown up with the hesitation or distrust for new technology, they just “live in it”. This represents a whole other set of challenges as they can be naïve or too trusting of what is out there.
The good news though, is that both our parents and our children can be taught the same things in order to better protect themselves. It’s fairly common sense and I am sure that almost anyone reading this post is probably aware of the steps that should be taken in order to protect themselves. Have you shared important online information with those closest to you outside of work? Your parents? Grandparents? Your kids? Aunt Martha?
Here are some simple things that all users, regardless of year born, should be doing to help protect yourselves online:
- Keep your software applications and operating systems up to date
– Most hackers are able to access your system due to a known vulnerability in the OS or application. It is important to keep up with your Windows or iOS updates! If you can, just set it to automatic.
– Flash and Java are commonly targeted by hackers. Ensure that these and your other applications are kept up to date with the latest updates and patches
- Keep you’re A/V software up to date, otherwise, you are prone to hackers looking for systems that haven’t received the latest version.
- Be careful with email
– If it is too good to be true, it more than likely is! The CRA is not refunding you $500 and a Nigerian prince didn’t leave you millions of dollars. Seriously people.
– Banks, PayPal, and credit card companies will not email you asking you to hit a link to login and change your password. Ever. Just delete those. Now.
– Be suspicious of unexpected emails containing attachments or links. If you are concerned, phone the organization or the person who sent it to you and ask them about the email you received before you do anything.
- Always use strong passwords
– Build strong passwords comprised of at least 8 upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.
– Recent research has shown that using a sentence comprised of all of these may provide you with the best protection. Make it something you will remember, like iLoveFi$hingonth3B0wr!ver (I love fishing on the Bow River).
– Change your passwords on a regular basis.
– Don’t be lazy! Use a different password for all of your user accounts. The bank, paypal, FaceBook, Instagram etc.
– Don’t share your passwords for any application with your friends! Ever. Not even your mobile phone’s unlock code, bad things can only happen.
- Don’t allow your browser to store your username and passwords on your mobile devices. Smartphones, tablets, or laptops. If you lose your device or have it stolen then you have made it really easy for the bad guy to have access.
Remember that most people outside of our industry don’t know as much as we do, or should. Next time you are at home visiting your folks, why not turn on their PC and make sure their automatic updates are turned on for OS and A/V? Talk to your kids about why passwords are so important and why they should never share them with their friends. In fact, just to be safe, why not send these pointers to everyone you know who could use a little extra help?