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How Familiar Are You with Cyber Threats?

There’s a lot more to cybersecurity than the on-screen drama of Mr. Robot, but it appears most Americans are drastically out of touch with the reality their personal information lives in.

A Pew Research Center report found many Americans are familiar with some cybersecurity concepts such as the risks of using public Wi-Fi and the components of a strong password. But respondents scored lower on more technical matters such as private browsing mode and two-factor authentication connected to log-in pages. Other key findings:

  • Location tracking – 22% incorrectly believed turning off a phone’s GPS function prevents all location tracking.
  • “https://” in a URL  54% were unsure that https:// in a URL secures any data you provide to it.
  • Phishing attacks – 54% can identify occurrences of hackers attempting to access secure information, also known as phishing attacks
  • Virtual private networks (VPNs) – 70% of respondents didn’t know that using a VPN can minimize the risks associated with using insecure Wi-Fi networks.

The survey found younger internet users tended to know more about cybersecurity issues than older respondents, as did people with higher education.

Issues are Prevalent, but Concern is Not

With the proliferation of smart devices and electronics connected to the internet of things, just about everything can be hacked, yet many of these devices have limited security.

A report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, “Securing the Internet of Things,” found that many devices had a number of vulnerabilities including strong password protection and lack of encryption. A similar study from information security firm IOActive, reported that 70% of devices were not designed to protect themselves from interference. Obviously, a compromised refrigerator isn’t as dire as a rogue traffic system, but the fact remains that security issues are ever present.

Are You Protected?

There are many factors to consider when looking at whether or not your devices are safe, but two simple ones that often get overlooked are:

  • How often does your screen lock?
  • How regularly do you update your apps and operating system?

Most (75%) smartphone users have a screen lock and update schedule they find most convenient. Only 22% go out of their way to lock their phone and update it regularly. The final 3% say they never lock their phones and don’t bother to update their apps or operating system.

This is important because updates often include vital security enhancements and bug fixes. Most big companies including Google and Apple employ teams of white hat hackers whose primary goal is to discover flaws and entry points into secure systems before malicious hackers do. Their work yields new security measures that are reflected in the updates.

Simple Measures

Some things you can start doing today to significantly improve your personal cybersecurity include:

  • Password protect all your devices.
  • Google yourself regularly and look for anything suspicious.
  • Sign out of your accounts when you’re done with them, even on your personal computers.
  • Don’t give out your email, phone number or zip code to anyone.
  • Encrypt your computer with a password.
  • If you use Gmail for your email, activate the two-step authentication.
  • Use cash for purchases that you don’t want tracked.
  • Make sure your Facebook is set to “friends only.”
  • Clear your browser history and cookies on a weekly basis.
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