Why is Cybersecurity Important?
Reading time: 4 minutes
- Cybersecurity isn't just for businesses
- You can lose money and time trying to unravel damage after identity theft or fraud
- Staying cyber secure can help reduce your risk of identity theft and fraud
Cybersecurity isn’t something only businesses and governments should worry about. To a hacker or fraudster, you – or rather, your devices -- are a treasure trove of information. That includes things like your birthdate, your bank account number or your passwords, but can also include other people’s information as well.
There are other risks besides the threat of financial fraud or identity theft: Obtaining email addresses or phone numbers, for instance, could enable a hacker to send messages aimed at getting someone to click on a link and install malware on a computer.
Let’s look at some of the cyber threats you may face, and why cybersecurity is important.
How cyber thieves get your information
- Hacking: Hacking is the process by which fraudsters can gain access to your computer. They may find weaknesses in your security settings, for example, and exploit them to get your information.
- Malware: Malware is any harmful program or file. There are different types, including computer viruses and worms, spyware and adware. They can also include so-called Trojan horses, which are malicious programs embedded in or disguised as legitimate software. These can delete your files and log your keystrokes, among other things.
- Malware may come in the form of an email, text message or social media message, and the sender may appear to be someone you know – meaning that person may have been infected. It may say something like, “Hi John, you won’t believe this!” with a link or an attachment. If you receive any type of communication with a link or attachment, even if it’s from someone you know, contact them to verify its legitimacy before clicking on anything.
- Identity Theft and Fraud: If information falls into the hands of identity thieves, they can help themselves to your money or open credit accounts in your name (which, of course, go unpaid). Good targets for identity thieves include your name, address, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, passport information, Social Insurance number, credit card or bank account number, and driver’s license number, among others.
- Phishing and spoofing: Phishing and spoofing are similar to malware, as it uses the same tactics – only instead of an email, text or social media message purporting to be from someone you know, the message may seem to be from your bank, credit card company or financial institution (spoofing). It may say there is a problem with your account or there has been potential fraud, providing a link in the email to sign in to your account. If you click on the link, it may take you to a legitimate-looking website, but when you log in, you’re handing your username, password or other information over to hackers – who can use it to hijack your account and possibly steal money.
- WiFi eavesdropping: This involves “listening in” on information you share using an unsecure WiFi network. This can provide fraudsters access to logins and passwords, as well as to sensitive information, depending on which sites you access on the network.
The bottom line is that there are a number of online cyber threats that can result in your losing money and time as you attempt to fix the damage cybercriminals can cause. Hackers and fraudsters are constantly searching for new ways to gain access to your personal information. While it may seem impossible to stay ahead of them – or eliminate the cyber threats entirely -- the good news is that changing your cybersecurity habits may help reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
Cutting your cyber threat risk
Here are a few suggestions that may improve your basic cybersecurity practices:
- Use two-factor authentication whenever possible. This involves an extra login step: for instance, you not only use a username and password to log in, but also enter a code sent to your mobile phone.
- Periodically review your privacy settings on your social media accounts. Set up login notifications so you’re notified if someone (even you!) logs in from a new device.
- Review what information you’re sharing publicly on social media.
- Use passcodes or biometrics (Face ID or Touch ID, for instance) to lock down your mobile device.
- Don’t have your phone set up to automatically connect to any available WiFi.
- Don’t plug your phone’s USB cable into ports in public places, such as airports. Instead, plug your cable into a charger you own, which you can then plug into a power outlet. Some ports can be hacked or compromised.
- Lock your laptop when you step away. Beware of “shoulder surfers” attempting to get a peek at your screen.
- Ensure you have antivirus and security programs installed on your computer, and keep them up to date. Back up your computer hard drives periodically.
- Beware of unsecure WiFi – and remember, just because a network requires a password doesn’t mean it’s secure. If you must use an unsecure network, don’t engage in any activities like online banking.
- Don’t click on any links in email messages from unknown senders. If you receive an email that appears to be from your bank or other financial institution, don’t log in from the email; go directly to the company’s web site directly.
Read more about helping protect yourself from identity theft.