Online data protection has never been more vital

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When October rolls around, many remember the trick or treat — the annual Halloween tradition where you roam the community, disguised as someone or something else, demanding treats while threatening mischief. For security and risk professionals like me, it’s easy to see the parallels between Halloween and protecting our businesses and customers from cyber threats. However, when someone knocks on the door
our
door, it’s much less cute and fun.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a time to remind people of cybersecurity threats and the best practices that can protect you, your loved ones, and your business from them. According to the World Economic Forum, 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error, and the vast majority of cybercrimes involve attackers impersonating someone or something else in an attempt to trick their target into ‘she gives them their data, their passwords or their money. Sound familiar?

Cybercriminals are constantly devising new ways to trick you into hacking into your devices and accounts – and often those who fall prey are those who don’t keep up to date with cybersecurity threats and best practices. Financial institutions and your online bank accounts are tempting targets for hackers, which is why American Eagle Financial Credit Union continuously educates its members and the public throughout the year on how to proactively combat cybercriminals.

Multi-factor authentication is one of the most effective tools you can use. MFA may include an additional numeric PIN, the answer to a security question, an additional code sent to you via email or text message, or facial or fingerprint recognition, among other tools that will verify your identity. Not all platforms offer this, but you should protect any account in which you store or access personal information (especially financial information) with MFA.

Your original authentication – the password – can also be your greatest vulnerability. Passwords are like the keys to your house, you must do everything possible to prevent people from having access to your password. A great first step is to create long, unique, and complex passwords. Regardless of the account, all passwords should be created with these three words in mind.

Keep your password long (at least 14 characters), unique (never reuse your passwords, each account needs its own unique password) and complex (use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and of characters). Remember to change your password if there is unauthorized access to your account or if it is part of a data breach.

Another easy way to protect your information is to make sure your software, operating systems, and apps are up-to-date. Don’t delay when a developer releases an update. These updates address general software issues and provide new security fixes for areas that cybercriminals can target. You should also never use pirated, pirated, or unlicensed versions of any software, even if it was provided by a friend. These often contain malware and cause more problems than they solve. You can be sure that bad guys are always looking for new and creative ways to break into your accounts – keeping your software up to date will keep you ahead of the game.

Finally, always think before you click. Phishing attacks — when an attacker sends a fraudulent message designed to trick you into revealing personal information or clicking on a dangerous link or attachment — account for more than 80% of all reported security incidents, according to CSO Online. .

Phishing scams are designed to appear legitimate and can be distributed through email, text messages, social media posts, and a host of other sources that you can generally trust. Always stay alert and careful, and don’t open messages or click on links that look suspicious or come from sources you don’t recognize.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the ever-evolving cybercrimes we warn and protect against make October scarier than ever, but if you remember to stay alert, follow best practices, and stay “cyber smart” , you, your family, and your business will be able to avoid the trickery and enjoy the many treats that come with online banking.

Chris Willey is Vice President of Enterprise Risk Management and Chief Security Officer at American Eagle Financial Credit Union.

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