Simple strategies for consumers to avoid cybercrime

In the past, many consumers considered that only businesses would be at risk of cybercrime.
However, today’s cybercriminals target both businesses and individuals without restraint. Each time you log on to the internet or use some form of connected banking, you are exposing yourself to potential cybercrime.

So how can an individual defend against the ever-present threat of cybercrime? What dos and don’ts should consumers follow every time they go online? To help answer these questions, we consulted with members of Forbes Technology Council for a few simple strategies to help consumers protect themselves from the exploits of cybercriminals.

1. Always Check The Source. I would recommend to check sources of the information: sites, email senders, those small green or red buttons browsers and email clients are showing to users. If your relative John writes you he needs some money, just check the “From” field of the email. If you find a good website with a weight-loss super recipe, just check the website URL. You might find a lot of interesting and alarming info there. -Dennis Turpitka, Apriorit

2. Don’t Share Everything. While it’s fun to share, it’s a good idea to minimize where you put information related to your address, birth date and other personal data. Also, don’t share pictures of certain things that might lead criminals to think you have money that they can steal. -Yenn Lei, Calendar

3. Use A Password Manager. Using a password manager that can generate unique passwords for each website that requires one will greatly reduce an individual’s attack surface. Password reuse on multiple sites makes it easier for attackers to compromise more consumer services using just one password. -Terence Jackson, Thycotic

4. Use Long-Tail, Random Phrase Passwords. Consumers need to be educated on best practices for creating secure passwords, as well as how hackers attempt to access password data. Brute-force attacks are considered the most effective and quickest way for hackers to guess passwords. Long-tail, random phrases with a combination of letters. numbers and symbols are the best way to prevent password vulnerability. -Arthur Pereless, Pereless Systems

5. Enable Two-Factor Authentication. Since everyone carries a smartphone with them, two-factor authentication should be standard practice for all the important accounts you have. Two-factor authentication (2FA) can save you, since it will ask for a second step of verification that an attacker shouldn’t have. -Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

6. Lock Down Social Media Profiles. Cybercriminals are using social media profiles to get sensitive information. For instance, they could look at your family members and discover your mother’s maiden name and that photo you posted of your pet that includes their name to get your answers for common security questions. Go through your settings and lock down your social media profiles. -Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

7. Never Use Public Wi-Fi Without A VPN. Research has shown most of us connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots in hotels, coffee shops, airports and more, without stopping to consider the security ramifications. Keep your data and identity safe by always using a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting outside your home or office. A VPN is easy to use and not overly expensive. The protection it offers is invaluable. -Paul Lipman, BullGuard

8. Set Up Account Alerts. The threat of cybercrime is all too tangible these days. Everyone is at risk. One simple way to protect yourself and your finances is to turn on fraud protection notifications for all of your credit cards and financial accounts. When you set up account alerts that flag suspicious transactions, it’s easier for you to act early and stop potential cybercrime before it balloons into a bigger problem. -Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

9. Remove Your Info From Major Data Brokers. If you Google your name right now, chances are you’ll find web sites exposing your home address, phone number, email and even relatives’ names. They’re listed by data brokers, which collect your data without your consent, and are prime targets for identity thieves and hackers. Luckily you can opt out and request they remove your info. -Pete Kistler, BrandYourself.com

10. Protect Your Children. Cybercriminals view children as soft targets to gain access to personal networks. Protect and educate your children on how to avoid being attacked. Protect by locking down devices, using kid-friendly browsers and, if possible, having dedicated devices. Educate on avoiding downloading apps, direct messaging and linking on unknown sources. -Randal Kenworthy, Cognizant