October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Cyber Security Division within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Cyber Security Alliance.
More and more seniors now use the internet for their banking and shopping needs, as well as using social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, seniors are also heavily targeted by cyber criminals. These criminals use sophisticated techniques to appear legitimate so that they can steal your personal information.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps that you can take to avoid falling into a cyber criminal’s trap:
- Password - probably one of the most important things you can do to protect your online information is to have a strong password for websites you log into. A combination of numbers, symbols and letters at least 8 digits long is recommended.
- If using social networking, limit the amount of personal information you share. Why people have to announce that they are leaving for vacation (and I see this a lot) on Facebook is beyond me.
- Beware of any email requests to update or confirm your personal information online. For example, the IRS will never email you asking for personal information, nor will your bank or online shopping sites like Amazon. There’s a simple way to find out who is actually sending such an email: hover your cursor over the name of the sender of the email, and the actual email address will show up. Chances are, the email address is not your bank.
- Avoid opening attachments, clicking on links or responding to email messages from companies that ask for your personal information.
- Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer and keep it up to date.
- Avoid accessing your personal information and bank accounts on a public computer like the library or public WIFI hotspots. Don’t do your banking at Starbucks!
- When cyber shopping, make sure the website address starts with “https”. “s” stands for secure.
- Look for the padlock icon somewhere in your browser.
These steps might seem obvious, but they are necessary in preventing cyber criminals from obtaining your personal information.
For more information about the Dept. of Homeland Security’s cyber program, visit www.dhs.gov/cyber.
For help with any of your computer issues, we have a very active Computer Club here at Sun City Shadow Hills and they offer classes and one-on-one training for your benefit. Check the latest View Magazine or our Lifestyles calendar for their upcoming classes.
Submitted by Beverly Mirsky
Information Advisory Committee Member