Consumers and households are continuing to be subjected to more online safety risks, as the digitization of everyday interactions, services and social activities continues to grow. Every day, consumers are shopping, socializing, banking and more on their handy smart devices and computers while they are on the go, working remotely or at home.
However, this growth and the need to be constantly connected comes with a cost – as it creates more opportunities for hackers to try to intercept or fool consumers into giving them personal information that could compromise their identities, their financial well-being and their online safety.
In 2021, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) observed approximately $379 million reported victim losses due to cybercrime activities like phishing, online scams and extortion, which has almost tripled since 2020. In the US, the number is even more pronounced as the cost rose from $4.2 billion in 2020 to $6.9 billion in 2021 according to a cybercrime report by the FBI.
Unfortunately, every new year that passes is setting new records for cybercrime activities that compromise individual’s personal information, their privacy and their online safety. That’s why we recommend that consumers add online safety to their list of new year’s resolutions to ensure the well-being of their households, children, family members and friends.
Here are 10 online safety tips to prioritize in 2023 that will ensure you and your family’s online activities and information remain safe.
Yes we know – regularly practicing password hygiene is a mundane task, BUT it’s essential that your passwords are regularly managed or updated to ensure your online data is safe and secure. Data from Verizon reveals that more than 80% of data breaches are a result of weak or compromised passwords, so it’s important that your personal passwords are regularly updated per best practices to minimize these risks. We recommend that you read our full list of password hygiene tips here.
2. Set up MFA or use an authenticator app for your connected household services where available
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides another layer of security to your family’s connected devices and your personal information. These newer technologies are widely available and they significantly reduce the risk associated with single-point password use by validating the end user via other methods like a secondary code that is sent to their email, phone or through an authenticator app.
3. Be on top of the devices connected to your home network
The IOT (or the Internet of Things) refers to a concept where everyday objects such as refrigerators, TVs, central heating, Pelotons and doorbells can be run off your home network. There are plenty of benefits to using these smart home devices however, they are gateways to more sensitive information through your home network.
If you are using them to make your home life more convenient like many people are, ensure that your wi-fi network has a strong password with non-identifiable information like your address or street name, and that each smart device follows our password hygiene tips. Ideally, these devices would be on a separate network from your home one, where your computers, tablets and phones are connected.
4. Minimize posting risky personal information about yourself, your family members and your friends online
This is something that most families still struggle with – and with good reason. The proliferation of social sharing culture makes it shockingly easy for us to let slip sensitive data online – and once something is on the internet, it stays there. Being careful with the information you (and your kids) share is one step towards being safe online and offline.
We recommend that you carefully think through your posts before they’re up online, particularly ones that share or imply sensitive data like:
- Birthdays and Birth dates
- Use unspecific language so that hackers can’t decipher one’s exact birthday or birth date. Remove your birthday from the public view on all your online profiles. Hackers will use this information to break into accounts and even guess your passwords!
- If you are travelling with your family and your home will be unoccupied while you’re away, we recommend posting your travel pictures after you are back, so that no one targets your home and its assets during your vacation.
- While this is a momentous occasion, one should avoid posting the exact address to avoid hackers or untrustworthy people in your networks who could be collecting or selling this data for harm.
- Posting a “first day of school” picture is a cute occasion to share with your networks and family members, but a popular trend for this milestone is putting your child’s information at risk.
- We recommend that any information shared about this occasion doesn’t include personally identifiable information like the child’s full name, grade, birth date and/or exact age, their weight and/or height, as well as the name of their school and teacher.
- Information we recommend that you share includes what they want to be when they grow up, their favourite outfit, snack or subject. Keep it more generic about preferences vs. any personally identifiable information about your child.
5. Remove old personal information online
Per online safety tip #4, you may have posted personal information online that you might now regret. It’s a good idea to go through old posts and delete or edit any information that could present a safety risk per our tips above. And if you have defuncted online profiles that you no longer use but are still public, we recommend deleting or archiving them.
6. Purge your personal online contact lists
You most likely have a lot of people within your online networks that you just don’t know that well anymore – or maybe you didn’t know them very well to being with. Its best to keep your personal social media accounts closed off to a group of trusted friends and family members, especially if you’re sharing information about your children or close contacts on them.
7. Make your personal profiles private
The contents of your online profiles should not be widely searchable via the networks themselves or on popular search engines like Google or Bing. There’s already risks of having an online profile, so it’s best that your information and personal activities aren’t available to the World’s 8 Billion people, which by the way includes hackers and their criminal networks.
8. Invest in online safety tools and training for your family members
BOXX Academy provides an engaging way to train your family members and kids about online safety. You can get creative and make online safety training a fun task by rewarding your kids for their participation, quiz scores and safety behaviours all year long with activities or treats they like.
The BOXX Cyber Protect app also provides cyber insurance and online protection on the go. With its commercial quality anti-virus software and unique VPN (Virtual Private Network) features among others, your online safety will always be protected.
Our all-in-one cyber insurance home coverage predicts threats, prevents breaches and insures against online safety and cyber risk events at home. Our Cyberboxx Home insurance product provides online safety training for your kids, access to our BOXX Hackbusters incident response team, protection against cyber bullying and extortion, and more.
10. Stay vigilant and informed about today’s online risks and cyber threats
At the end of it all, it’s important for consumers to be pro-actively aware and informed of today’s online safety and cyber risks – the dangers will not be diminishing anytime soon based on the latest cybercrime trends and predictions. We recommend that you start the year off with the right information and tools to keep yourself and your loved ones regularly informed about these risks.
Staying up to date is easy, as local and national news programs regularly cover cyber and consumer safety events in their segments. We also recommend that you make it a habit to visit and follow GetCyberSafe.ca or the National Cyber Security Alliance resources page to stay informed about online safety trends and threats.
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