Are you protecting your digital house from cybercrime?

(BPT) – As the pace of technology advances, cybersecurity threats do, too. Data breaches, identity theft, phishing and malware make headlines seemingly every day. Internet-connected devices, social media, digital assistants and mobile apps have become indispensable in our everyday lives, but their connectedness makes us increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Recent reports estimate that damages relating to cybercrime are expected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021.

‘It’s impossible to predict when you will be affected by cybercrime,’ says Bashar Abouseido, chief information security officer for Charles Schwab Corp. ‘The best defense is to stay informed.’

It can be helpful to envision your computer and digital devices as a house where you store your personal data. October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to make sure your digital house is secure. The first step is to understand the ways cybercriminals may attempt to access your data.

Types of cybercrimes

Data breaches occur when there is unauthorized access to sensitive personal information. These incidents often make headline news and can affect large numbers of consumers.

Malicious software, also known as malware, spyware, ransomware and viruses, refers to software programs designed with the purpose of gaining unauthorized access to a mobile app, digital device or computer.

Phishing is one of the most common forms of online fraud and cybercrime. Cybercriminals try to lure you with a fake email sent from what they have designed to appear to be a trusted source or contact that encourages you to click a link or open an attachment in order to extract personal account information.

5 tips to protect your digital house

1. Remodel your digital house: Installing updates is an essential first step.

Think of system updates as basic maintenance to your digital house that is keeping your personal data safe. It can be annoying to see those system update prompts on your computer or mobile device, but software developers are constantly improving their software to repel the latest malware. By keeping your operating system and apps updated, you are making sure that your digital house is as secure as possible.

2. Don’t have a leaky house: Be wary of public Wi-Fi networks.

Using public – and often free – Wi-Fi networks is convenient, but it is a common entry point for criminals to use malware to infect your devices and apps. Use only networks you trust or use your own personal Wi-Fi hotspot if you have one. Never update your devices when you are connected to a public Wi-Fi network.

3. Keep your keys secure: Choose unique access credentials.

Access credentials – usernames and passwords – are the keys that keep your digital house safe and secure. Select credentials that are unique and don’t include personal identifying information such as a name, address or birthday. For added protection, choose two-step verification to access critical online accounts for your banking, retirement or investment accounts. Two-step verification is typically a key or another code provided by the service provider in addition to your primary access credentials to verify your identity.

4. Secure doors and windows: Use only secure websites and app stores.

Web browsers and app stores are like the doors and windows in your digital house. Make sure they are secure by using web addresses that start with ‘https’ and downloading apps only from the Apple App Store, Microsoft Store and Google Play store.

5. Don’t open that door: Delete suspicious emails.

That knock on your cyber front door is the sound of a cybercriminal sending you a phishing email. Be suspicious of emails that come from unknown senders. Use your cursor to hover over questionable links and email addresses to reveal the true identity of the link or sender. When in doubt, don’t click on any links or open any attachments and delete the email immediately.

For more information on more ways to educate and protect yourself from cybercrimes, visit SchwabSafe.