Cyber security has become a major concern of late for both individuals and businesses. It seems there is a new story almost daily of some cyber breach or a new security risk. How do you go about protecting yourself against these potential threats? Especially, how do you protect your personal identity and your financial security?

Here are six tips to help you identify areas where you may be vulnerable, so you can take the steps necessary to reduce the likelihood of being a victim of cyber fraud. No plan is 100% fool proof but taking some simple precautions can make it less likely you become a victim.

  1. Keep your software, operating system, and browser up to date. Turn on automatic updates for your devices software programs including your web browser. Installing updates when they become available can help you protect your devices against malware or other malicious software attacks.
  2. Utilize a strong and reputable anti-virus software program. Anti-virus software has been the best protection against malicious viruses getting into your computer and creating compromises of your data. Only use one anti-virus program on your devices to make sure they are not working against each other. Choose a reputable vendor and keep the software up to date. Also, as they say, “there is an app for that,” but apps can be vulnerable too. It is best to only download apps from either the Google Play™ or the App Store® and never from third party sources that are more likely to contain malware.
  3. Be on the lookout for Phishing scams by being very suspicious of emails or phone calls from sources you do not know or seem out of place. Learning what a Phishing scam is and how to identify them is critical to not allowing your personal information to be stolen or allowing malware to become introduced to your devices. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages. Be very cautious of sharing your personal information to any unknown source, including social media. Be suspicious of the emails sent to you in general. Look and see who and where it came from, look for any misspellings or grammatical errors. These can be signs of a Phishing scheme.
  4. It’s best not to use public Wi-Fi unless you are using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Public Wi-Fi can be readily hacked so it is best to stick to your mobile network or choose a reputable program to establish a VPN. By using VPN software, the traffic between your device and the VPN server is encrypted providing you with much greater protection. It is also best not to use the publicly available charging cords many hotels, coffee shops, etc. offer as these can be used to deliver malware to your device. If you have Wi-Fi at home be sure it is password protected.
  5. Create strong passwords. A strong password is critical to keeping hackers out of your data. Don’t reuse the same or similar passwords across websites as this makes it easier if a hacker gets to one account to be able to access multiple accounts. Consider a password manager, such as LastPass, to manage multiple passwords across several websites and applications. Make passwords as least eight characters, however, twelve is a better choice as it makes hacking substantially more difficult. A combination of upper case, lower case, numbers, and symbols is the best choice. Also, the more random, the stronger the password. This is where a password manager program comes in handy. Where possible enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to login to any website that offers this option. This is an inconvenience at times, but it is the best way to protect your financial data and personal information.
  6. Backup your data on a regular basis. Backing up your data files is overlooked by many when dealing with personal accounts and devices. Doing so provides you an ability to retrieve information should you become a target or victim of ransomware or malware. The rule is to keep one copy on your hard drive, one on an offsite storage drive and one on an external drive. This triple backup process gives you the best protection.

In addition to these six steps, it is best to check your credit report on a regular basis and review your online accounts regularly to make sure nothing is out of line with what you expect.

Cyber security is a major concern today for good reasons. Take some time to review how secure you are with your data. It can pay off in the end by helping you avoid financial losses as well as loss of significant time to recover information or address fraudulent activity. Our goal is your security and peace of mind.

Written by:  Dennis Kelley, Managing Partner

These are the opinions of Dennis Kelley and not necessarily those of Cambridge, are for information purposes only, and should not be construed or acted upon as individualized investment advice.  Investing involves risk.  Depending on the types of investments, there may be varying degrees of risk.  Investors should be prepared to bear loss, including total loss of principal.  The strategies discussed herein are not designed based on the individual needs of any one specific client or investor.  In other words, it is not a customized strategy designed on the specific financial circumstances of the client.  However, prior to opening an account, Cambridge will consult with you to determine if your financial objectives are appropriate for investing in the model.  You are also provided the opportunity to place reasonable restrictions on the securities held in your account.