Cybersecurity: Protecting Your Personal Finances

Cybersecurity-personalfinance-tech

In today’s world, most personal finances are done online. The days of banking and administering our finances in brick and mortar institutions are fading. With the ever evolving tech landscape, our cybersecurity and privacy should not be neglected, even more so when it comes to personal finances. So, how can you stay safe online when dealing with your personal finances?

“At the end of the day, the goals are simple: safety and security.”

Jodi Rell

Why Cybersecurity Matters

Technology is changing and innovating at a rapid pace. Only 10 short years ago we had the iPhone 3G. Now we have smart homes with interconnected dishwashers, fridges, and bathroom lights controlled by our smart phones and tablets. Devices providing a new level of convenience, yet all ripe for exploitation.

We need to be very careful and think about the potential downsides of our very-connected world. Cyber threats and offsetting cybersecurity continues to become more important every day.

Cyber-crimes are becoming more popular, complex, and frequent. Cyber-crime is expected to cost up to $6 trillion globally each year.

“By some estimates, cybercrime is expected to globally cost up to $6 trillion annually. Losses of this scale put the incentives for innovation and investment at risk and will be more profitable than the global trade of all major illegal drugs combined.”

David Kennedy, Founder of TrustedSec

In 2018 there were 137.5 million new malware samples. Of those 137.5 million, 93% are polymorphic. Polymorphic means malware is designed to continually change its code to avoid detection. So once you have it, you might not even be able to find it!

Malicious hackers are now attacking computers and networks at a rate of 1 attack every 39 seconds. That’s more than 2,200 attacks every day.

For more shocking statistics on cybersecurity and cyber-crimes check out 300+ Terrifying Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Statistics and Trends.

Bad Cybersecurity Practices

Now that we know cybersecurity is no joke, what are the top points of vulnerability each of us can and should take control of right now?

  • Unsecure Passwords,
  • Using Public Wi-Fi,
  • Falling pray to scams,
  • Using out of date programs/operating systems,
  • Browsing Websites that aren’t safe, and
  • Having an Open Network.

How to Improve Your Cybersecurity

Below we look at several good practices that you can implement to improve your personal cybersecurity situation.

Passwords

Most things in the world today require some form of a password. Having a weak and non-secure password is one of the biggest vulnerabilities, and one of the easiest to address.

When creating a password it should not be related to you. Avoid using, names, birthdays, or any other information that others know or can easily obtain through social media or other publicly available data. A strong password incorporates letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols/special characters.

Furthermore, you should avoid using the same password for more than one login/account. Now your probably thinking, how the heck am I going to remember all these passwords? Great question.

Password managers. Password Managers are programs that store passwords and make the sign-in process simple. Another great feature of some password managers is automatic password generation. One great option is Bitwarden (which also happens to be fully encrypted).

In addition to strong passwords, if available, activate the two-factor authentication option. When using two-factor authentication, an automated text message, phone call, or email will provide you with a random time-expiring code to input confirming your log-in process in addition to your password.

Public Wi-Fi

Free public Wi-Fi seems to be available almost everywhere these days. However, be extremely careful what you do on public networks and how you access them. This is one of the easiest ways hackers can exploit and gain access to your devices, or at the very least, see what sensitive data you send or receive on that network.

For the sake of the length of this article, we will not go into too much depth. However, here are 12 Reasons You Should Not Use The Public Wi-Fi.

Things to be aware of are: middle men; fake websites; where you enter your password; worms; criminal activity; rouge networks, and the list goes on.

Out of date software

Software that is not up to date with know vulnerabilities is another easy cybersecurity issue to mitigate. Out of date software is more at risk of bugs, hacks, malware, and ransomware than software that is up-to-date.

Most software either automatically updates or provides notifications when they are out dated. Turn on automatic software updates, and manually check for software updates every couple months just to be sure.

Additionally, have your antivirus scan to make sure everything is up-to-date and there no lingering “known vulnerabilities”.

Browsing Websites That Aren’t Safe

The internet can be an extremely helpful tool for gathering and filtering information. However, we have to be careful which websites we use.

There are over 1.7 billion websites, both good and bad. Most mainstream websites, and sites that show up on the first few pages of a google search should be fine. Look for the https vs http prefixes on your page of choice for added vote of confidence.

Avoid higher risk sites with shady purposes and unknown back stories. Some of these include illegal file sharing sites, radical ideological sites, illicit TV streaming sites, pirating sites, porn sites, and dark-web sites. The aforementioned sites should be avoided, as they are a large source of viruses, ransomware, and malware.

Having an Open Network

The large majority of people have internet and Wi-Fi at home. But there is still a significant amount of people that fail to password protect their network.

There are a lot of issues that come with having an open network. First off, anyone using your Wi-Fi appears under your IP address. This means that whatever they do on the internet, it looks like it is coming from you.

Leaving your network open also leave an open door for any would-be hacker. Much the same as public networks, hackers can have open access to everything happening on the network. This problem is amplified if file sharing is on.

There are other issues with unsecured networks. Here are 6 Reasons Why You Should Secure Your Unsecured Wi-Fi

Other Things To Look Out For

If you have fixed all the things mentioned above, awesome. However, there are still ways that you can be attacked. Other things to look out for are Ransomware, Malware, and Phishing schemes.

One of the most common ways to get attacked, is through an email scam. Hackers will send an email that looks like it is from a known contact such as a co-worker, or other reputable source (your bank, legal professional, doctor, etc).

They might attach what looks to be a legitimate work file. However, when you open the file, it contains some form of a virus or malware. So, get paranoid and stay paranoid. Be extremely vigilant and careful with screening every email attachment that comes through your inbox. If you coworker sends you a file you weren’t expecting for months, it might be worth taking a closer look at the sender, and/or confirming with you co-worker that it is legit.

One last thing that is beneficial to mention is Virtual Private Networks or VPNs. When using any network, and especially public WiFi, it is prudent to use a VPN. A VPN is a tool or service that can encrypt your incoming and outgoing web traffic and cloak your IP address.

Say you wanted to write your mom a letter with you bank details or credit card information. You likely wouldn’t want to write your financial information on the back of a post card and send it half way across the world. You’d put it in an envelope to keep those details private from the prying eyes before sending it through the mail. A VPN works as a digital envelope for all of your emails, web surfing, and online banking.

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