In the modern age, very few people can go an entire day without accessing at least one digital system, and even fewer people can last a whole week. Whether checking bank accounts, social media feeds, emails, or tracking an online purchase, consumers and businesses access digital accounts so frequently that it feels almost natural. With companies continuously strengthening security systems in their fight against cybercriminals, including adding biometric identifiers such as fingerprints or retina scans, many people think their personal information and online accounts are safe and secure. However, the vulnerability that most often results in a compromised account is something outside what most companies can control – the account holders themselves.
While massive data breaches that provide the account details for thousands or millions of users are not unheard of, a much more likely cause is an individual account holder accidentally providing the information needed for the hacker to gain access to the account or providing a means for an entire computer system to be taken over. Often through impersonation, tech support fraud, or phishing attacks, cybercriminals direct targets to malicious links that collect login details, install keyloggers, or take over computer systems. For this reason, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and other consumer advocacy groups stress the importance of practicing safe cybersecurity habits, and Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a great time to address possible vulnerabilities.
“Cybercriminals are constantly looking for new ways to exploit digital systems,” said Heather Massey, vice president of communications for Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas. “Everyone, businesses and consumers alike, must proactively protect their accounts by safeguarding information and being extremely cautious when interacting with any links that direct them to an unknown website.”
To promote and reinforce safe cybersecurity habits, BBB offers the following tips and resources:
Browser privacy. Many websites use files called cookies to personalize user experiences and provide targeted ads. Website browsers, such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge, allow users to adjust their privacy settings and delete or manage cookies. Changes made on one device do not carry over to other devices, so adjust these settings on any device you use to access the internet.
Smartphone privacy. Most mobile devices allow users to control whether they receive targeted ads based on app usage and browsing activity. Settings include resetting advertising identifiers, tracking control, location control and ad personalization. Toggling these settings will change the permissions of apps and browsers used on a mobile device. Additionally, the Digital Advertising Alliance and the Network Advertising Initiative have free opt-out tools for consumers who wish to stop receiving targeted advertisements. Learn more about adjusting privacy settings for your devices at FTC.gov.
Protect your device. Download and maintain up-to-date security software to prevent malware from infecting your device. Along with computers, other web-enabled devices, such as smartphones and gaming systems, also need protection from viruses and malware. Make sure to use security software to scan for viruses on any external device, such as a USB flash drive, before downloading data to your hard drive.
Exercise good cybersecurity habits. Become familiar with the five-step approach to cybersecurity: identify, protect, detect, respond and recover. Be cautious when interacting with links received through email or social media, and make it a habit to check for the ‘lock’ icon in a website address that indicates it is a secured system before making an online purchase. Protect your most vital accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Read more on how to safeguard your home from cybersecurity threats on BBB.org.
For additional resources on how businesses can practice safe internet habits, visit BBB.org.