Be Wary of Cyber Threats | The Cautious Investor

By Ryan Glinn, CFP®, MBA, CLTC®
W3 Wealth Management

WARREN, Ohio – Cyber attacks are on the rise. The year 2021 saw the average data breach top $4 million dollars, the highest figure in 17 years. Sixty one percent of all reported data breaches were due to stolen credentials, and many of these were the result of human error. It’s as important now more than ever to make sure we take the proper precautions to protect our data from bad actors.

One of the better ways to ensure a secure login is to enable “two-factor” authentication when logging into an account. Two-factor authentication typically requires your standard username and password to get started. However, to gain full access you’ll need to verify your login attempt via a code or “push” notification sent to your phone or email address on file. This way, if a 3rd party compromises your login, your personal device or email can act as a 2nd layer of defense.

Speaking of passwords, it’s important to take them seriously. Do not use the same password for multiple logins. Do not store usernames and passwords on your hard drive. Consider using a reputable, securely encrypted password manager. However, understand these password managers can be vulnerable should your master password be compromised through malware or spyware, such as keylogging. You may consider simply writing down your passwords and storing them in a personal safe or safety deposit box.

Utilize a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) at home and when using public wi-fi. VPN’s hide your IP address so 3rd parties cannot see your online activity. They also encrypt your data.

When it comes to online shopping, use a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit cards offer more protection against fraud and have credit limits, whereas your debit card can be spent down until your bank notices the suspicious activity. Additionally, most credit cards now offer the ability to send transaction notifications directly to your phone.

Lastly, be suspicious. Expect that you are a target. Never open links or download files from emails you don’t know. If an email seems suspicious, double-check the sender’s address. Phishing attempts will slightly alter a work or personal contact’s domain name or extension. Emails or phone calls from 3rd parties that attempt to create a sense of urgency are also a red flag. It’s common to see phishing emails come from a “boss” requesting personal information, money, or other sensitive material immediately due to an emergency. Always get verbal confirmation from the source prior to sending any sensitive information!

The example(s) given are hypothetical and are for illustrative purposes. Actual results may vary from those illustrated.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the CFP® certification mark, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification mark, and the CFP® certification mark (with plaque design) logo in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

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