Looking back on 2017, there has been more than a fair share of new cyber security threats including romance scams using apps and social media, phony IRS calls threatening legal action, ransomware and in September, the Equifax data breach.

Have you ever heard someone ask, “How is it we can put a person into space, but we can’t find a cure for the common cold?” Business Insider states that researchers say the common cold isn’t just one virus, but a combination of different strains that know how to shield themselves against most medicines we throw their way. And just like a cold, cyber criminals continuously evolve, finding new ways to pair tactics and technology.

It’s not if, but when

The hard truth is that our digital footprints keep getting bigger – meaning more data about our habits, our finances, our families and identities is available online than ever before. We’re over-sharing through social media, conducting more transactions online and even visiting certain websites that may collect data without our knowledge. The larger your digital footprint, the more information available for the taking and the greater the chances are of your information falling into the wrong hands. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

What can you do?

Just like the ever-evolving cold virus, cyber threats change. Cyber security isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. It requires continual effort. This is why we are dedicated to refreshing your knowledge of security basics and educating you on ways to stay safe.

Here are some tried and true steps you can take (if you haven’t already) as well as a few that might be new:

  • Passwords are now passé – Instead of relying on one word with special characters, consider a passphrase with upper and lowercase letters, digits, special characters and even spaces. Try to make it something that isn’t associated with any of your online information like Sp3aker#L0ud Mus1c that is different but easy to remember.
  • Use different passwords for every account– It may be easier to remember one password, but if the password and email address you use for one account gets in the hands of the wrong person, the cybercriminals will start trying it on other websites and services.
  • Think before you click – Be vigilant about links in an email or social media message asking you to click, even if it’s from someone you know. If you believe it is suspicious, verify it with the sender by calling them or talking in person before taking any action.
  • Secure your internet connection– Always protect your home wireless network by changing the manufacturer’s default password to a new one that is more sophisticated (like a passphrase). This is also a good idea to use on other devices like a cable DVR, smart thermostat, baby monitor, and other wireless devices
  • Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks – Do not connect to free, unsecured public Wi-Fi (e.g. coffee shop, retail store, etc.) because you never know who is using it and for what purpose. Instead, consider using your mobile device’s data service as a hotspot.
  • If you feel you may be a victim – If you have been notified that you’ve become a victim of identity theft, or believe you may be at risk due to a breach notification, consider credit monitoring or a credit freeze. Before you do though, make sure you find out which one might be right for you.

Moving forward

Data breaches are starting to feel like the new norm, whether they’re large, public breaches or targeting one individual at a time. To stay protected, it’s important to be informed, and knowing where to go for help can make it easier.

For more tips, news and information visit https://staysafeonline.org/ or our UMB.com Security & Privacy page.