Dennis Horton: In 2019 internet security is really up to us

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If you’re one of those individuals who talk a lot about cybersecurity or cybercrime — read nerd — the experts say there is a whole lot of “do as I say; not as I do” going on. According to the folks at Symantec Corporation (Norton) “those who emphasize the importance of online security, generally contradict themselves through their actions, and as a result, are more likely to fall victim to cybercrime.”

As we begin the new year I was curious about what we might expect in regard to hackers, breaches and general online activity in 2019. That’s when I came across Norton’s report on all the things, good and bad, that we do, and how vulnerable we make ourselves.

More than one-half of the adult internet population in the United States was affected by some form of virus, malware, spyware or phishing scam in 2017. The numbers for 2018 have not been released. That accounts for roughly 143 million Americans. From those attacks, consumers lost $19.4 billion, and the average cybercrime victim spent 23.6 hours dealing with the fallout.

That begs the question, what are we doing wrong? Overconfidence, that’s one of the bad things we do. There are quite a few of us who believe we are at low risk of becoming victims. That kind of thinking is an open door to cybercriminals. Another bad thing: 20 percent of cybercrime victims use the same password across all online accounts and 58 percent shared at least one device or account password with others.

There are many technological advances designed to protect us while online — fingerprint, voice or facial recognition are a few— but sometimes the tried and true goes a long way. We should remember and use the basics.

Passwords: Don’t tie your password to publicly available information that makes it easier for the bad guys to guess your password. Be sure to use a phrase that consists of a string of words that are easy to memorize but hard for anyone else to crack. The longer your password, the better it is. Additionally, if your account or device enables it, consider two-factor authentication for an additional layer of security. We all have too many passwords; so, consider using a password manager. There are many available free online.

Be careful on public Wi-Fi networks: Accessing personal information on unprotected public Wi-Fi is risky. Everything you do on a website or through an app, could potentially be exposed. Avoid anything that involves sharing your personal information (paying a bill online, logging in to social media accounts, paying for anything with a credit card, etc.).

The internet of things: When installing a new network-connected device, such as a router or smart thermostat, or smart appliances remember to change the default password. Also, protect your wireless connections with strong Wi-Fi encryption so no one can easily access the information traveling between your devices.

Don’t go phishing: Think twice before opening unsolicited email or attachments, especially from people you don’t know, also don’t click on random links. The message may be from a cybercriminal who has compromised your friend or family member’s email or social media accounts.

Be in control when online: Have a good multiplatform security software package to help protect against the latest threats.