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Views: Here's how you can enhance cybersecurity this holiday season

Cybercrimes affected more than 143 million Americans in 2017 – up more than 30 percent from the year before

Ron Stenger
Ron Stenger

In today’s technologically advanced world, attention to cybersecurity is critical. Cybercrimes affected more than 143 million Americans in 2017, a jump of more than 30 percent from 2016.

Clients often ask for my advice on protecting their data and assets on the web, and with online holiday sales likely rising between 17 to 22 percent, according to a recent economic forecast, now is the perfect opportunity to explore a few basic safeguards.

Avoid reusing passwords and pins

Avoiding the tendency to reuse passwords and pins (even if they are intricate) is imperative. Reuse may create vulnerability across multiple accounts and platforms, even if only one password or pin is compromised.

To make the process easier, consider utilizing a password manager, which essentially creates and safely stores complex passwords.

Establish multi-factor authentication

A recent study found online and mobile banking is the primary banking channel for two-thirds of Americans. As activities like online banking and shopping continue to increase in popularity, the amount of personal data and information stored online has increased, as well.

Usernames and passwords are decent defense mechanisms for these accounts, but it’s also prudent to add an extra layer of security with multi-factor authentication. This one extra step often takes the form of a push notification or one-time security code for purposes of verifying your identity.

Beware of unsolicited requests

Any unsolicited requests for personal or financial information should raise an immediate red flag. These requests can manifest in many different ways, including calls, texts and e-mails. When it comes to e-mail specifically, clicking on foreign links and attachments may install malware on your device, potentially exposing sensitive data and information.

Exercise caution with public WIFI

Just as mobile banking has taken hold over the last few years, so, too, has the concept of a mobile workplace. Whether it’s a coffee shop, airport terminal or the lobby of a resort, pretty much any public space with a reliable WIFI connection can instantly transform into a mobile office.

This certainly has its perks, but public WIFI also presents a potential opportunity for those looking to perpetuate cyber fraud. Avoid making transactions on public WIFI, and if you must conduct either personal or work-related business, utilizing Virtual Private Networks or personal hot spots are generally more secure.

Combatting cybercrime

Even if you take all the aforementioned prevention steps, it’s important to keep a watchful eye for any red flags of cybercrime.

Make it a point to proactively review your statements and free credit reports, as anything out of the ordinary may indicate fraud. Catching this activity early is one of the keys to mitigating the negative impact.

Cybercrime is a threat that must be taken seriously. A commitment to boosting your cybersecurity can help you avoid becoming a victim.

• Ronald Stenger is a Managing Director, Wealth Management and Wealth Advisor with the Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Oak Brook. The information contained in this column is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments.

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