Online threats are becoming more common and sophisticated. Because we rely so much on digital devices for communication, shopping, or online banking, it's crucial to be aware of those threats and to take action to protect your devices.

1. Install programs to protect your home computer

You can lower risks by installing a few items on your home computer:

  • Antivirus software. Whether you use a free or paid version, antivirus software will scan your computer for unusual activities, check new software you install, and make sure the files you download aren't infected.
  • Firewall. You can use the firewall built into your antivirus software or install a separate application. Your firewall will manage which programs can access the internet to download or send data.
  • Browser extensions. You can use browser extensions to manage your passwords, display information about the pages you are visiting and look for malicious code on the pages you visit.

Viruses can sometimes exploit vulnerabilities in operating systems, software, and browsers. Those flaws are usually corrected quickly through patches and updates. Enable automatic updates to make sure your operating system and applications are up to date.

2. Protect access to your computer and accounts

You can reduce risks by always being mindful of who has physical access to your computer and other devices. Using strong passwords and PINs is a good way to protect your devices.

Update your passwords regularly for your different devices and online accounts. Enable two-factor authentication if this option is available. If you tend to reuse the same passwords to make remembering them easier, start using a password manager tool instead.

If there is a risk of losing a device, it's best to avoid storing any personal data on it. This applies to laptops, tablets, phones, and flash drives.

3. Avoid these online habits

Besides securing your home computer and other devices, there are a few online habits you should avoid.

Don’t share personal information. If you use social media, turn off location sharing and avoid writing updates that could reveal where you are or when you will be away from home.

Be careful when clicking on links. Your antivirus software and some browser extensions can protect you from malicious links, but it's best not to follow links unless you are sure that the link is safe.

Don't make the mistake of opening emails from senders you don't recognize or following links from phishing emails. Don't follow links and don't download attached files unless you know the sender and are sure that the email is legitimate.

Today, the connection to almost all websites is encrypted and the link will begin with "https". This feature requires the entity to validate its legitimacy with certificate authority that will provide the encryption key certificate upon completion of a successful validation. That said, not every site is https enabled as the process is time consuming and has an expense. Be leery of sites that are not https enabled or have a missing or invalid certificate.

Always look for the lock icon next to the URL in your browser bar when you fill out forms on a website or make an online purchase. This icon indicates that the website has a valid security certificate and that your data is safe. It's also best to take a few minutes to do some background research and look for reviews or additional information about the person or business behind the sites you visit before sharing your personal data.

CFNA is dedicated to helping you stay safe online. We recommend that you follow these simple tips to protect your devices and online accounts.

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