Keeping Your Digital Information on Lock
In today’s increasingly digital world, nearly everything in our lives exists within a phone, computer, TV, or tablet. Even kitchen appliances such as refrigerators these days now have their own digital or “smart” component. Whether we run from it or embrace it, technology is there and seems to be advancing by the day.
With all of these new tools and our increasing use of digital methods comes an increase in cyber attacks, identity theft, and hacking of information stored online. Using these exciting new technologies can be fun and make our lives easier, but when they are used to store important data and personal information, it is crucial to keep that information safe and secure.
Jeff McKay, Information Security Manager for Farm Credit, advises that today’s cybersecurity landscape is largely dominated by two things: social engineering and ransomware. Social engineering is when someone tries to manipulate you into performing an action or sharing confidential information. Cybercriminals use social engineering to access computer systems, gather information, or make money. Three of the most common methods of social engineering are malicious links, fake web pages, and impersonations.
“Social engineering is always present with criminals trying to get you to reveal confidential information through seemingly legitimate interactions,” says Jeff.
Ransomware is equally as dangerous and tends to be the leading threat users face in today’s environment. It can be delivered using multiple channels including email, pop-ups, or suspicious websites.
“At Farm Credit, we utilize firewalls within different levels of infrastructure. Traffic coming in and out of Farm Credit’s systems are continuously monitored for any kind of suspicious activity that could indicate a bad actor is trying to gain access or compromise an internal system,” explains Jeff.
Farm Credit also requires all staff to complete regular cybersecurity training and tests them to ensure they are aware of many different threats they could encounter.
Some general everyday practices and tips for keeping your data safe include:
- Double (or triple!) check links before clicking them – this can be done by hovering over a link or entering the URL directly into a separate browser. If it seems suspicious, it probably is.
- Create strong passwords…and don’t re-use. A password that is unique, and at least 12 characters long and a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols is a smart place to start. Your passwords should be as long, complex, and random as possible. You should avoid using the same passwords across multiple websites.
- Use multi-factor authentication, if it’s an option. This requires multiple forms of authentication such as a password or code sent to your phone via text message that you then must enter as part of the login process before you are allowed into your account.
- Choose your own settings for data tracking when browsing the web. Most websites will ask you permission to track your activity through cookies. You can opt-out of or block most third-party cookies. If you want to only allow certain permissions, you can adjust your web browser’s settings.
- Avoid oversharing on social media. Guard your personally identifiable information by limiting what you share online. This includes being aware of subtle methods of information gathering such as quizzes that ask for personal details like your mother’s maiden name or your date of birth. Over time, cybercriminals could collect enough details to hack your accounts or steal your identity.
While cybersecurity threats are ever-present and have come to be almost routine or expected, it’s still important to stay alert – you can never be too cautious when it comes to your personal identity and information.
For more information on keeping your data secure, the Federal Trade Commission provides resources on what to do if you think your data was exposed, as well as identity theft safety and prevention tips.
For more information about Farm Credit’s privacy and security policies, visit horizonfc.com/privacy-security.