Cyber Security: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe Online

Don't fall prey to online scams; follow these tips to protect yourself.

By Navy Federal August 6, 2015

You may be dying to boast about that long-awaited tropical vacation to your friends on Facebook, but are you also letting thieves know that your house may be the best target on the block? The Internet has made our lives easier in many ways, allowing us to connect more quickly in all areas of our lives—business, personal and financial. But it's also given criminals a new way to commit a wide range of attacks on unsuspecting users. Here are some tips to stay safe so you can take advantage of the benefits of being online without falling prey to the dangers.

Don't post sensitive information

Never post your address, phone number or other personal information where it can easily be seen. Bots—software programs that run automated tasks over the Internet—scan Web pages for this sort of sensitive information to exploit.

Check permissions on social media

Try to keep what you post online limited to the people that you trust. Look through the settings of the social media you use to be sure that you're not accidently giving criminals more information than you'd like.

Protect your computer

Keep anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date. Be sure that you purchase these tools from a trusted retailer or supplier.

Beware of emails asking for authorization

Criminals posing as financial institutions, bill-paying services or government agencies will often send emails asking you to authorize transactions or verify information online. While these sites may look legitimate, they're often a cover for collecting personal information and passwords. If you feel an email may not be authentic, call the institution directly to provide information.

Be very selective about opening attachments in emails

Even emails from a trusted source can be dangerous when a friend or colleague's email is hacked. Messages may be sent from their account to contacts in an attempt to infect more computers with malicious software. If the email looks suspicious, don't open it and definitely don't click on any links.

Don't unsubscribe from unsolicited emails

It may seem counterintuitive, but many unsolicited emails include an unsubscribe button to alert bots that they have reached a valid email address.

Be careful when clicking links on social media

Another platform where criminals like to take advantage of your trust is on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Compromised accounts may post malicious links using your friends' accounts in an attempt to make them seem legitimate. Again, leave links alone if they seem suspicious.

Change your passwords often

Most security experts recommend that you change your passwords at least once every three months.

Use unique passwords for each site

Be sure your passwords are different for different sites, so one compromised password doesn't mean your other accounts are in danger as well. Be sure your passwords include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols for maximum security.

Never use public or shared computers for important tasks

Tasks such as online banking or investment transactions shouldn't be done on a public computer. Criminals can install software that tracks keystrokes to steal your information.

Take advantage of mobile banking apps

You can bank safely with mobile apps, like Navy Federal's Mobile Banking* app, which provides secure access to your accounts. Smartphones are less targeted than traditional computers for malware and other dangerous viruses. With Mobile Banking, you can conveniently make transfers and deposits, pay bills, find nearby branches or ATMs, and more.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.