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Be cyber secure: Do’s and don’ts for your family
Advice for helping protect yourself and your family from cyber threats
ODDS ARE YOU WOULDN’T DISCLOSE personal details, like when you’re planning to go on vacation and leave your house empty, to a random stranger on the street. But many people happily post that sort of information on their social feeds for anyone to see — and if you aren’t divulging your family’s schedule (and secrets) online, your teens just might be. Review the following do’s and don’ts to help you and your family stay safe in today’s super-connected world.
DO educate your family about cyber risks.
Children may not understand the risks of the online world. It's up to parents to teach them the dangers of sharing photos and personal information, like vacation routines or daily schedules — information that could be used by others to harm them. Teach them, too, that it’s a good practice to avoid downloading apps from obscure or untrustworthy developers and playing games or taking online surveys that ask for personal information.
Children may not understand the risks of the online world. It’s up to parents to teach them the dangers of sharing photos and personal information.
DO keep your personal info private.
Be careful about sharing valuable personal information, such as Social Security numbers, credit card information and birth dates, in a text or email with people you don’t know well or trust. If you are shopping online, ensure you are on a reputable site before entering any sensitive information. And use a strong password, passcode or biometric login to protect your accounts online.
DO consider setting up a VPN.
A virtual private network (VPN) is a tool that encrypts your communications, from banking to shopping to texting to emailing, when you're connecting to the internet via Wi-Fi. Best of all, it can be used anywhere in the world. Setting one up can be easy and affordable, but it’s important to choose a VPN you can trust. Talk with a security expert to determine which is best for you. Be aware, though, that you may have difficulty accessing some financial firms’ websites through a VPN because of the anti-fraud protections they’ve put in place. If you encounter that problem, turn off your VPN and move to a location where you can use a secure, trusted internet connection.
DON’T leave your home network unprotected.
Be sure to change the password on your router as soon as you install it. The router is the gateway to your home and touches all of your connected devices, from phones to smart home gadgets. Also, don’t forget to configure security and privacy settings on your devices, and invest in reputable antivirus software for your computers. Download software updates on all the programs you use — automatically, if that’s an option. Software companies often discover vulnerabilities before cyber criminals do and rush to fix them. The longer you wait to update your software (or operating system), the greater the chance you’ll be targeted.
DON’T drop your guard on public Wi-Fi.
We’re so used to using our devices everywhere (or so concerned about hitting the data cap from our cell phone provider) that most of us don’t think twice about logging on to the free public Wi-Fi system at the airport, coffee shop or dentist’s office. Some Wi-Fi connections can’t be trusted; cyber criminals can infiltrate these systems and collect data that’s sent through them. That’s why it’s always best to take the precaution of connecting to sites through secure connections or a VPN.
DON’T use easily guessed passwords.
Despite repeated advice from all corners, some people still use the most basic of passwords for their email, shopping and financial accounts. Or worse, they use the same password for all of their online accounts, making those accounts especially vulnerable to cyber criminals. Variety and randomness are your best bets, so if one password is discovered, your other accounts won’t be at risk. Even better, consider using a password manager, which assigns a random password to accounts. That way you only have to remember a single master password — for the manager itself. (You can find password managers in your app store.) For tips on creating your own strong passwords, read “Be cyber secure: Hone your password-writing skills with this quiz.”
If you suspect that you or a family member has been targeted by cyber criminals, read “Cyber security checklist: Consider taking these steps if your family’s devices have been targeted.”
Stay connected, stay protected
To help keep your Merrill account information safe and secure, make sure your contact information is up to date and set up security and account alerts so we can stay in touch. Remember, if we need to reach out to you, we’ll NEVER ask for personal or financial information or an access code through email, text or unsolicited calls. Visit our Security Center for tips on how to recognize potential scams and learn more about how to keep your accounts safe.
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