Step Up Your Defense Against Hackers

Ask "Stop, wait, does that make sense?"

When you receive an email, take an extra few minutes to question it, even if seemingly from a contact.  Ask yourself: Would this person normally email you with that request?  Does your bank ask you to send them your password?  Does this sound like a client you have been working with?  Were you expecting this attachment from your colleague?  It is not bad customer service to add a minute or two before you answer.  It will save you a big potential mess on your back end if you are caught by phishing, malware, ransomware, or give out personal data.

Watch the information you share

Avoid sending any personal or sensitive financial information over email.  Also, watch the information you post on social media.

Ensure your systems are secure

Check to make sure that your computer and antivirus software are up-to-date, including any privacy tools, add-ons for browsers, router firmware, ransomware protection, and phone apps you use.  Activate two-factor authentication when accessing accounts, use encrypted email, and consider using a VPN when accessing public Wi-Fi.

Check email addresses closely

One common way that hackers infiltrate is by creating spoof emails that appear nearly identical to real ones.  Look closely at all email addresses for subtle differences.

Don't click on unsolicited links

Opening a bad link or attachment can prompt a key logger, malware that reads your keystokes and can then capture your passwords.  Never open an unsolicited attachment via email from anyone, even it seems to come from someone you know.  Call and verify the legitimacy before opening.  Also, if you receive a link in an email, hover over it to see the full link before you click.  Be particularly skeptical of shortened URLs that try to mask where the pages are going to.

Consider protection

You may never be able to fully protect yourself from becoming a victim of a data breach, hack, or system failure from data loss.  But insurance may help protect you from financial devastation.

Use a passphrase as your password

Password breaches are a common way from hackers to gain access to accounts.  Using stronger passwords is one of your best defenses against hackers.  Avoid obvious passwords that tie strongly back to you, such as a name of a pet, child, family member, birthdays, anniversaries, phone number, or common keyboard patterns, or even reusing the same password on multiple devices.  Instead, consider using a "passphrase", which consists of a sequence of words or text.  They tend to be longer and harder for hackers to guess.

If fraud does ever occur, act immediately

If you become a victim of a scam, time is crucial.  The faster you act, the better chances for recovery.  Notify all parties involved immediately.