Interesting Fact: October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. An annual effort by the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, the event aims to educate people about the importance of remaining vigilant online — and provide tools and resources to make that vigilance a bit easier. (And in a world where more and more of daily life takes place on the internet, that regular reminder doesn’t hurt!) The Central Bank team has pulled together helpful insight you can use to keep your online data better protected, and your mind at ease.
Opt for Safe Online Practices
There are all sorts of pitfalls people can fall into online, but a little added thought can do a world of good. Here are a few pointers:
- Keep Your Passwords Hard to Guess: Avoid using words found in the dictionary, or birth dates that might be easy to guess. A strong password will be at least eight characters long, and will incorporate capital letters, numbers and even a special character or two. Take things a step further by using a different password for every account/system you access. Of course, you should never discuss passwords with others or keep them written down.
- Avoid Social Media Questionnaires: Those lists your friends post that line out everything from the year they graduated, to their favorite ice cream, are fun to read, but they can provide scammers with all sorts of information they could use to guess your passwords and account information. Avoid the urge to fill them out (and if you see others do so, educate them about the risks).
- Keep Your Computer and Devices Up to Date: Those reminders to download and install the latest security patches or systems might seem annoying, but they’re there for a good reason. Hackers are always trying to find new ways to access information they shouldn’t. As such, the companies that run the devices and systems you rely on regularly roll out upgrades aimed at keeping security strong. Make those updates as soon as you can.
Don’t Disclose Sensitive Information to Those You Don’t Know:
Financial institutions, credit card companies and similar agencies will NEVER contact you asking for information such as passwords, account numbers or Social Security numbers. (If you call them, however, they will likely ask you to verify information to make sure they have the right person on the line.) If you receive a call, email or text message asking for such information, end communication immediately. If you’re unclear whether the communication was legitimate, you can always contact the institution through a verified means of communication, such as the phone number on the back of your bank card. The American Bankers Association’s Banks Never Ask That site offers great information — and even an interesting quiz — on this topic.
Know Where to Go to Learn More
Just as online technology is always advancing, hackers’ knowledge is, too. Staying on top of the latest scams is one of the best ways to ensure you know what’s going around — and the warning signs to watch out for. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) regularly post about phishing attempts, phone scams and other ways scammers are working to get a hold of information they shouldn’t have. The Central Bank team also works to incorporate fraud updates into our Facebook and LinkedIn posts. Keep an eye out and, when you do learn of a potential threat, spread word to those you know. Older individuals, and those who aren’t tech-savvy, are often more likely to fall victim to such attempts.
An Important Note: If you suspect you or someone you know has been the victim of online fraud, report the incident immediately. You can file a report here.
Cybersecurity Awareness Month provides an ideal opportunity to assess your online security — and take steps toward safer practices. If you’d like to learn more, our Security page and online resources offer a wealth of information you can put to good use today. Of course, our team is glad to help, too. Feel free to contact Central Bank with any questions you might have. Play it safe out there, friends!