As Internet usage has increased over the past 20 years, there has been a shift in how we are relying on the comfort of online transactions and communications. It has become a normality to engage on the Internet with our email addresses, phone numbers, names, and other login credentials. At the same time, we have seen a sharp increase in cybercrime that is not only targeting businesses, but also private citizens.

According to the FBI’sInternet Crime Report 2021, a record 847,376 complaints of cybercrime were reported to the FBI by the public, a 7% increase from 2020. The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network took in over 5.7 million reports in 2021 of which 49% were for fraud and 25% for identity theft.

The most vulnerable cybercrime victims are young adults and adults over age 75, according to the latest research revealed in the LexisNexis Risk Solutions biannual Cybercrime Report. Both age groups appreciate the benefits of an online presence, but struggle with the ever-changing attack vectors or threat levels. Unfortunately, there is not one central approach towards personal cybersecurity, so we are left to deal with this risk on our own as internet users. We do need to accept that it is our personal responsibility to protect ourselves from bad actors and reach out to our technology or online service providers to stay abreast of current threats and protection opportunities.

For most of us, we have enough knowledge to do our own research, but young adults/children and seniors do not necessarily know to whom to turn for a more proactive approach towards cybersecurity. If you are interested, here is an example where a collaborative approach of both age groups can make an impact on each other:

But what are some of the more prevalent steps we can take in order to protect us in the ever-changing online world? Here are some of the easier initiatives that require a change in behavior but will immediately make a difference in lowering the risk of falling victim to an attack or identity theft:

Passwords – The most impactful way to decrease risk is having a consolidated approach towards password management. Most of us are using the same password across different online entities, which increases the risk level multifold in case of a breach on the side of a service provider. What we can do is to utilize a password management solution that will support us in creating complex and different passwords for each of our online accounts. Good examples are 1Password, Keeper Security or LastPass. The difference is that we are no longer required to know each of our passwords and can increase the complexity and length of a unique password to a unique website.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA) – Multifactor or 2Factor authentication is now almost a requirement when you are interacting with a financial institution. Most MFA technologies will send a key combination to your e-mail or phone as a secondary requirement after you enter your password. While this sounds cumbersome, it is an excellent additional layer of protection that you should use not only for your financial services accounts but also for your social media presence or wherever you have the technology being offered to you. Most large providers like Google or Yahoo will offer this option for all of their services, and we do see an increased number of retail providers following the trend as well.

Online Transactions – Be careful in how you are paying for your online merchandise. Using a debit card is something you should never do for an electronic transaction as it is tied directly to your checking account and bears an elevated risk if the information is compromised. Even providing credit card information directly as payment method is risky in case there is a breach on the merchant side. Payment providers like PayPal or Apple Pay can function as an additional layer between your personal account information and the merchant by encrypting your payment card information and taking over the responsibility of securing the transaction.

E-mail – One of the highest exposures to identity theft or exploitation is coming via the substantial number of e-mails we receive on any given day.

First, there is nothing free on the internet and if it sounds too good to be true, it is most likely a fraud.

Most e-mails contain links for ease of use, but it can come at a high price if you access the link directly out of an e-mail message. Did you know that 78% of cybercrime attacks are initiated by the victim clicking on a link in an e-mail message?

Do not enter your credential information into an e-mail message you received. Even if it appears to be a legitimate message from your bank or merchant provider, it is much safer to go directly to the website and enter your credentials there.

These are some ideas to use in managing your online presence. If you are following these steps, you have significantly lowered your risk of exposure to an attempt to compromise your online account information.

Do you have other questions that you would like us to address in this part of the newsletter? Please reach out to your client representative. They will collect your questions and pass them on.