Top 5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Online Threats

The rapid growth of cybersecurity threats has real consequences. Nearly half of American adults have had personal information exposed by cybercriminals and one out of three homes with computers have devices infected with malware. It’s important to realize that no strategy is bullet-proof and anyone can be hacked. One approach is adopting a variety of security measures that address a range of threats to help reduce your overall risk. The following five steps are worth considering:

1. Be alert for phishing attacks.

Phishing — various forms of e-mail impersonation — represents one of the most common and effective forms of cybercrime. Attacks are designed to trick you into clicking on a link or attachment that stealthily provides access to your computer, personal information and passwords. The result can be identity theft and losses from financial accounts.

Watch out for e-mails claiming to represent public agencies or private companies that demand urgent action or confidential information. In general, never provide confidential information via e-mail, unless you have confirmed the requester’s identity. Call to confirm any unusual requests.  E-mail from people or organizations that you don’t know should be treated with suspicion. If you’re not sure, delete the e-mail and don’t click on any link or attachment. 

2. Protect online accounts with multi-factor authentication.

Various online accounts, particularly financial services, offer multi-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access. In addition to a user name and password, multi-factor authentication requires a new security code every time you log into your account. Generally, you can select whether the code is sent to you via e-mail or phone text. Choosing the latter reduces risk in case your e-mail account has been hacked. For sensitive accounts, such as financial or medical, find out whether your provider offers this additional protection. In addition, it’s wise to change your passwords every three to six months, using combinations of letters, numbers and symbols that are hard to guess.

3. Consider using a virtual private network, or VPN, when using the Internet.

People who work from home are often familiar with VPN connections required to access their employer’s secure network. Similar protection is available to individuals at a reasonable cost (sometimes at no cost) through Internet service providers, security software and other providers. A VPN creates an encrypted Internet connection that prevents third parties from intercepting your data. This protection is particularly useful for sensitive transactions or when using public Wi-Fi networks, such as at a café or an airport, that may not be secure. The VPN connection also provides anonymity, preventing third parties from learning your identity or location. It’s worth doing some research before choosing a VPN, whether free or fee-based. VPN connections often slow the speed of Internet uploads and downloads, depending on the service you select.

4. Protect the security of home Wi-Fi networks.

A security breach in your home Wi-Fi network could provide access to information on your family’s computer devices. A few simple steps can improve your network’s security2: 1) Change the name of your network from the default Service Set Identifier (SSID) issued by the service provider, often the company name. Choose a name that doesn’t reveal your provider or any personal information. 2) Change the default password on your network router that may be easy for hackers to guess if they know the service provider. The password should be at least 20 characters, combining letters, numbers and symbols. 3) Turn on your router’s encryption setting — WPA2 is more effective. 4) Disable network name broadcasting to the public. 5) Keep your router’s software up to date, installing the latest security updates. 6) Turn on your router’s firewall, or install security software to help prevent unauthorized access to your network.   

5. Consider using a dedicated device for financial transactions.

Surfing the Internet, online shopping, e-mail and social media are among the most common sources of risk. A dedicated device, such as a laptop or tablet, used only for transactions with banks and financial service providers can reduce the risk of accounts being compromised. By not using the device for e-mail or surfing the ‘net, you reduce your exposure to a range of threats, such as phishing, malware and computer viruses.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Be Cyber Smart, The Facts.
2 Norton by Symantec, Keep your home Wi-Fi safe in 7 simple steps.

Glenmede’s Top 5 is intended to be an unconstrained review of matters of possible interest to Glenmede Trust Company clients and friends and is not intended as personalized investment, estate planning, tax or legal advice. Investment and wealth advice depends on many 
individual facts and circumstances we cannot account for here. For legal and tax advice, consult your lawyer or accountant. Opinions or projections herein are based on information available at the time of publication and may change thereafter. Information gathered from other sources is assumed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed. Outcomes (including performance) may differ materially from expectations herein due to various risks and uncertainties. Any reference to risk management or risk control does not imply that risk can be eliminated. All investments have risk. Please contact your Glenmede representative to discuss the applicability of any matter discussed herein.