(BPT) - Your smartphone, your tablet, your computer - they are some of your most important and most used possessions. They are the daily tools you use for research, to connect with others and make purchases. You take them everywhere and fill them with your important, personal information.
And all of that makes them the perfect targets for a cyberattack.
The number of cybercrime incidents in the United States grows each year, and as Americans move into an increasingly digital society - thanks to smart phones, smart cars and smart in-home technologies - cybercrime is expected to grow in frequency again in 2017. Protecting yourself, your family and the vital information on your devices means increasing your focus on your own cybersecurity. That starts with these five tips.
* Recognize you're not immune. Cyberattacks increase in frequency and severity every year, so don't make the mistake of believing it can't happen to you. "It's important to protect yourself by taking personal responsibility for your data; we can't expect banks or other institutions to do it for us," said Jim Karagiannes, Ph.D., professor in DeVry University's College of Engineering & Information Services.
"We lock our doors and take other security measures to protect our home and car. We need to also take precautions with our personal security and information."
* Don't store your username, password or credit card information with a website. The convenience makes it tempting, but websites are a popular target for cybercriminals because a successful hack gives them access to hundreds or thousands of files, including yours. Even storing this information on your own computer can expose it in a cyberattack, and if your credit card information is captured, criminals can use it to gather your social security number. That exposes you to identify theft. Keep this information off your devices and, instead, create complex passwords and write down all of your usernames and passwords on a piece of paper that you keep in a safe place, such as a deposit box.
* Use only a credit card, not a debit card, when making online purchases. Using your credit card instead of your debit card allows you to keep better track of the purchases you have made. It also limits the effects of any possible theft to just the one card instead of several. If you have no choice but to use a debit card for an online purchase, do not use your pin number online.
* If it feels like a trick, it probably is. Cybercriminals often engage in "social engineering" or other non-electronic methods to try and trick you into surrendering your data. If you get a phone call about a banking or credit card issue or if your computer tells you to call a number because it just caught a virus, be cautious. Do not divulge any personal history or credit card details. Hang up or ignore the computer-generated notices and call the customer service number of the institution's website with any questions.
* Replace your existing credit cards with chip cards as soon as possible. Chip cards are becoming the new normal these days, and if your current credit card does not have a silver square chip on its front, consider replacing it quickly. Popularized in Europe, chip cards possess the necessary encrypted information to eliminate delays in the transaction process. Doing so closes the window criminals need to steal your personal information, thus protecting you from identity theft.
You have no intention of abandoning your devices, of course, so protect them. Following the tips above will help better secure your technology and personal information from the threats of cybercrime so you can enjoy your devices with greater peace of mind.
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