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Guide to Cyber Safety in 2021

By Nina Terenzi, Oct. 25, 2021
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In 2009, there were 12.4 million ransomware attacks reported. In 2021, that number has skyrocketed to 812.67 million, with 92% coming through email. As we continuously shift to a technology-driven society, these numbers are only expected to rise along with the cost to individuals and businesses who fall victim to an attack. In 2020 alone, businesses paid out $75 billion in costs following a security breach.

From online shopping to social media scrolling, smart home tech, working remotely, and more, we are all susceptible to fraud, identity theft, and financial loss. Despite the risks, the benefits of having this technology at our fingertips makes our lives easier and is here to stay. As a result, it’s crucial that we all rethink how we use technology and what information we share to stay secure and safe in the digital world.

So, what can you do to help protect yourself, your family, and your information? There are a few key precautions you should take to significantly reduce your risk. Whether you use your phone just for calls and texts or are on a device all day long, here’s your guide to cyber safety in 2021.

How does an attack happen?

The first step in protecting yourself online is understanding how an attack can happen to you. Here are the most 5 common cyberattacks:

  • Malware — When hackers use malicious software such as spyware, ransomware, viruses, and worms to intercept your information.  A malware attack is activated when a user clicks a suspicious link or attachment which can lead to a loss of information, transfer of financial data, blocked networks, and more.
  • Denial of service — a DoS attack floods your network so you’re unable to respond to requests. Essentially, your system will be down and unusable until the problem is resolved and can often be accompanied by a ransom request.
  • Man in the middle — An attack where a hacker inserts him or herself between a transaction of customer and provider allowing them to steal sensitive information.
  • Phishing — Perhaps one of the most recognized scams is a phishing scam. This is when fake communication, like an email, is used to trick the receiver into opening it and sharing credit card information or other sensitive information. The elderly is a #1 target for this kind of attack.
  • Password attack — Whether guessing or using a password database, these kinds of attacks open up a wealth of information to hackers, giving them access to any account you have with that password.

Steps to protect yourself

  1. Keep your personal information limited

As tempting as it may be to provide your personal information on websites and social media, it’s best to share as little as possible. Try to avoid sharing your marital status, home address, employment history, and checking in to various places. If it’s not information you’d share when first meeting someone, you shouldn’t share it with everyone on the internet.

  1. Keep privacy settings on at all times

Enhanced privacy settings change frequently to help protect user information. Take advantage of these settings and only allow those you know to view your personal information and updates. Many devices don’t come with enhanced settings on automatically so be sure to opt-in as soon as you have a new device or update your device.

  1. Browse Safely

You wouldn’t trust a stranger on the street, so don’t trust a strange website. If it’s not secured with a lock in the left-hand side of the browser URL, stay off the site. If you come across a link to a website with deals that seem too good to be true, it probably is, and you should avoid clicking it.

  1. Use a secure internet connection

Pro tip #1: never use public Wi-Fi! This is the easiest way for someone to hack into your device without you even noticing. You become the most vulnerable when you’re connected to a device with a number of other users that you don’t need a password for.

At home, be sure to password protect your own network and monitor who can access it.

  1. Be mindful of downloads

Apps, games, documents, and even movies and tv shows can all be malware in disguise. Think before you download and make sure it’s from a trusted source.

  1. Choose strong passwords

Today, most websites require a combination of letters, numbers, and characters in your password, and for good reason. The harder your password is to guess, the better. Also, be sure to update your passwords every few months.

  1. Make purchases from secure sites.

The world of online shopping has skyrocketed in the past few years and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. If you plan to make purchases online, make sure they’re from a trusted, secure site. They can be identified easily by looking for an address that starts with “https,” with the ‘s’ standing for secure, rather than just http.

What about smart home tech?

Smart home technology can be more complicated because multiple people may have access to them and they’re often always on. However, like most conveniences, this technology can also present dangers and challenges for its users. All smart home products are connected to the internet, making you susceptible to rising cybercrime. If you’re one of the 250 million worldwide users of smart home products, you’ll want to do your research before activating your devices.

In addition to the above tips, there are a few additional considerations. First, monitor your children’s use of technology. Best practice is to monitor them all the time, but especially when it comes to smart home technology like smart thermostats, TVs, and more. Hackers can turn on these smart devices without your permission and often use phishing ploys geared toward younger audiences to gain access to do so. Also, since these devices are still fairly new, it’s even more important to update software often. Manufacturers are consistently updating their privacy setting options and making it more difficult for hackers to get into your device – but there is always a risk.

To learn more about cybersecurity insurance, or to request a quote, visit https://www.easterninsurance.com/cyber-insurance. Or, to start working directly with a member of the Eastern Insurance Customer Service Team, call us at 1-800-333-7234 and press Option 2, or email us at customerservice@easterninsurance.com.

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