Hey, everyone! It’s 2020 already! Can you believe it? I hope you guys had an enjoyable holiday season, free from problems and safe from thieves and cybercriminals who have been taking advantage of many people’s ignorance and gullibility.
And so, with the start of a new year (and a new decade), let me emphasize the importance of cybersecurity.
The World Wide Web is a truly wonderful place. It has made our lives easier and has offered a ton of convenience for many of our usual tasks and activities such as work, correspondence, research, consuming entertainment, shopping, and yes, even banking. But just like the real world, the internet is also a very dangerous place filled with criminals lurking in every corner. These people are always waiting for the opportunity to attack their next victim. Most of these thieves take advantage of your ignorance and trust in order to steal personal information, such as login credentials, which they can use to enter your various online accounts. Once they’re inside, they can pretty much do whatever they want, including locking you out of your own account and worse — stealing all your money.
I, myself, have encountered a good number of these malicious tricks even up to this day. In fact, I actually noticed that their methods have become more sophisticated and deceptive. But, no matter how impressive their schemes are, nothing beats a person armed with proper information and good common sense.
So, whether you’ve been a victim of some form of cybercrime before or have been fortunate enough not to have fallen prey to some of them (yet!), let’s make sure that 2020 is the start of a “new you” by becoming better and wiser versions of ourselves.
Cybersecurity tips to follow for a safer and secure digital lifestyle
I’d like to share 5 very important tips that I always keep in mind whenever I’m online. Hopefully, these tips will also help keep you and your loved ones safe, and that you may be able to protect your online accounts as well as your hard earned money and savings.
1. Be careful opening attachments on emails.
Not all attachments you receive thru email is safe to open — even when they look as harmless as a PDF or Microsoft Word file. You may think these files are harmless, and that’s exactly what cybercriminals want you to believe. These files usually come in emails that have generic subjects that are either very friendly (like: “Hi there! I hope you like this!”) or urgent (ex: “Very important!!! Please read!”).
These seemingly harmless attachments usually contain malware (malicious software) that can infect your system, steal your personal info, and send all your secure data back to the hacker/cybercriminal. If you aren’t expecting any specific email or if you don’t recognize the sender, DO NOT OPEN the attachment.
2. Don’t be fooled by phishing emails.
Sometimes, cybercriminals can be very creative and create emails that look and feel deceptively similar to emails sent to you by social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as banks and financial institutions like BPI, etc. At first glance, they look authentic and genuine. They often try to fool you by asking you to update your personal information on their website. This email usually comes with a link that takes you to a web page that looks almost exactly like the official website you were expecting to visit. Be very careful because the moment you fill out the form on these pages and hit “send”, all your confidential data will instantly be in the hands of these criminals. They will be able to use these information to hack into your account and do anything they want with it.
Do not click on links. Type out the URL instead, such as www.bpi.com.ph. Also, make sure to inspect the sender’s details.
Double check emails that contain suspicious content — even if they are from trusted email address and websites. Better safe than sorry.
Also, please keep in mind that financial institutions and banks (like BPI, etc.) will never ask for your personal information through an embedded link in emails or via a third-party site. In case you are asked for personal information, I highly recommend that you report it immediately to the actual company that the phishing email is trying to impersonate.
3. Don’t click on suspicious links on social media and messenger apps.
If you think cybercriminals only use email to steal confidential information, think again. Many of these malicious methods can also be done thru social media and messenger apps such as Facebook Messenger and Viber. If you receive suspicious links shared to you by friends thru messenger apps or if you see links that have gone viral on Facebook that entice you to participate in an innocently fun quiz or survey, chances are they’re anything but innocent. These quiz sites can actually steal valuable information from you, your whereabouts, social media activities, as well as your friends list. These kinds of data can be used by cybercriminals for all sorts of things such as impersonating you, stalking your location, preying on your friends, and more. NEVER click on them. Don’t even think about it.
If you receive suspicious messages with links from friends, chances are they have been tricked and infected already. The malware is most probably propagating itself by sending copies to everyone on their friends list without them knowing. It is best to let your friend know that you received a suspicious link from them so that they are aware. Advise them to change their passwords as well.
4. Visit your bank’s official website and social media channels regularly for news and updates.
Cybercriminals tend to change their methods from time to time. They even come up with new ways to be more creative and deceptive. Make sure you aren’t ignorant of their new schemes. In order to stay on top of these things (and to further protect yourself from attacks), it is advisable to regularly visit your bank’s official website as well as their social media channels for the latest news and updates. Subscribe to their newsletters so that you are always well-informed.
Take myself for example, I always visit BPI’s Important Announcements page (https://www.bpi.com.ph/announcements) for advisories and updates. I’ve also liked their official Facebook page where they regularly share cybersecurity tips with their followers.
Remember, information is a powerful weapon… and it’s free! Use it to your advantage.
5. When in doubt, don’t.
Of course, as with everything… common sense plays a huge part in protecting oneself. As a general rule, always remember — when in doubt, DON’T. If you’re having thoughts opening a link you don’t recognize, then don’t open it. If your gut is telling you that a particular email or message doesn’t seem right, best to stay away from it.
Remember, all it takes is one wrong click and you’re done for. Sometimes, you’ll realize your mistake only when it’s too late already. So, be very, very careful.
Well… I hope by sharing these 5 important tips on cybersecurity, we can all start the year right, free from fear and equipped with the right information. I encourage you to please share this post so that we may help spread the word and educate our friends and loved ones as well.
Here’s to a safer digital lifestyle for all of us, not just for 2020, but for all the years to come. Cheers!