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How to Secure Your Online Accounts


Joanna Yuen

Marketing & Content Specialist - 28 Jun, 2024


You probably wouldn’t walk through a dark alley in the middle of the night with a sign that says, “I have lots of money!” And yet, that’s essentially what many of us do online every day - where the consequences can be just as painful.

In a world that’s increasingly digital, we all have a presence. Within that presence, you might be surprised at the information that’s easily available to others. And, to crafty cyber criminals, there is a plethora of private and sensitive information just waiting to be exploited. Failing to protect your privacy online is basically leaving highly valuable aspects of your life open to all sorts of crime, from small phishing scams to identity theft that can wipe you out financially.

In this post, we discuss how to secure your online accounts and protect your privacy online. First, understand the real risks of today’s cyber landscape, and then spend a few minutes securing your online accounts to keep your data as protected as your wallet or your home.

Is Cyber-Crime on the Rise?

The unfortunate answer is yes (very much so).

Cybercrime has been on the rise in recent years. With the increasing reliance on technology and the internet, cybercriminals have found new opportunities to exploit individuals, organizations, and governments. The advancements in technology and the interconnectedness of devices have made it easier for cybercriminals to carry out various types of cyber attacks, such as hacking, phishing, identity theft, ransomware, and data breaches.

Research from The Identity Theft Research Center (ITRC) Annual Data Breach Report, tells us that 2023 had a record high number of data compromises in the U.S. in a single year. This represents a massive 72% hike from the previous all-time high number of compromises set in 2021. At least 353 million individuals were impacted. And, according to the FBI’s  Internet Crime Report 2023, 880,418 complaints of cyber-crime were reported to the FBI by the public, a 10% increase from 2022. The potential total loss increased to $12.5 billion in 2023, up from $10.3 billion in 2022. California, Texas, and Florida had the highest number of cybercrime victims.

Finally, The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network took in over 5.39 million reports in 2023. 48% were for fraud and 19% for identity theft, with credit card fraud accounting for 40% of identity thefts, followed by miscellaneous identity theft at 25%. This includes online shopping and payment account fraud, email and social media fraud, and other identity theft. Georgia, Florida, and Nevada had the most identity theft reports

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It is important for individuals and organizations to stay vigilant and take appropriate measures to protect themselves against cyber threats. Start by understanding the various types of cyber attacks you could be vulnerable to, including:

  • Phishing: This involves sending deceptive emails or messages to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or social security numbers.
  • Malware: Malware refers to malicious software designed to gain unauthorized access to or damage a computer system. This can include viruses, worms, ransomware, and spyware.
  • Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks: These attacks aim to overwhelm a network or website with an excessive amount of traffic, making it inaccessible to legitimate users.
  • Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks: In this type of attack, cybercriminals intercept and alter communications between two parties without their knowledge. This allows them to eavesdrop on sensitive information or manipulate the communication.
  • SQL Injection: This involves injecting malicious SQL code into a vulnerable website or application, allowing cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to the underlying database and potentially retrieve or manipulate sensitive data.
  • Social Engineering: This attack method relies on manipulating individuals into revealing sensitive information or performing actions that may compromise security. It can involve impersonation, pretexting, or baiting techniques.
  • Zero-day Exploits: These are vulnerabilities in software or systems that are unknown to developers or vendors. Cybercriminals exploit these vulnerabilities before they can be patched, allowing them to gain unauthorized access or control.

Furthermore, it’s important to understand that with the advancements in artificial intelligence, even a single website data breach can leave you vulnerable. With machine learning that can quickly test your password on other sites, it’s easier than ever for cyber criminals to get your secure information within minutes. People who use the same passwords over and over or for different platforms are especially in danger. It is crucial to stay informed about these types of attacks and take necessary precautions to protect oneself and organizations from falling victim to cybercrime.

Online Accounts at Work

As if it’s not scary enough to have your own data at risk, you also need to consider the implications of sensitive information in your workplace. Since one of the most highly searched terms online is “How to secure my email account from hackers” it’s safe to assume this is top of mind for many people.

Many industries such as healthcare, insurance, and marketing have strict regulations about how they can collect and leverage data, and professionals in these sectors often take special precautions to ensure any data on their work devices is safe. At the end of the day, you as a professional are responsible for the data on your devices, and there could be serious consequences for putting this data at risk. There are several good reasons to be particular about maintaining security at work:

  1. Your data is protected - Every business should prioritize keeping data safe. Your data is valuable and might include customer information, financial data, marketing materials, etc. This information is vital for the company, but in the wrong hands, it could spell big trouble. Many employees have access to parts of this data and without proper internet security in place, they could accidentally disseminate it. Internet security is essential because it keeps data protected.
  2. Cyber attacks are very common - Another critical reason for internet security is that you could become a hacking victim, no matter your business. Hackers simply do not discriminate when it comes to who they hack; there is no specific target within a company. On one hand, they could go for the CEO or boss since they are likely to have access to the most information, but that’s not a guarantee. It’s much simpler to hack an employee or do an easy phishing scam to access a company’s system. Proper internet security ensures efforts like this don’t succeed.
  3. There is more sensitive data online than ever - As more organizations shift toward embracing the cloud, many old paper documents and ledgers with precious information are becoming digitized. Instead of these pieces of data going into safes or locked filing cabinets like they once did, they are now stored in the cloud. Proper security is essential because it puts this information into “digital safes” with types of locks and keys, essentially keeping unwanted people out.
  4. Cyber attacks can be incredibly painful - The truth is that following a cyberattack, you could face a significant financial burden in the form of insurance payouts, hiring forensic specialists, overhauling your company’s network, penalties, etc. This is why privacy and security protocols are necessary: not only because they protect users’ information but because the financial burden of having it stolen is higher than you might think.
  5. Cyberattacks are becoming too easy - As we mentioned, the number of cyberattacks just keeps growing. Instead of someone sitting behind a computer for hours to crack into your system, they can simply create code that runs through multiple businesses and find the ones with vulnerabilities to exploit. And, as business protections increase, hackers are great at finding ways around them. This means you need the highest degree of internet security that is constantly evolving to protect against these threats.

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How to Secure Your Online Accounts: 15 Tactics to Stay Safe

At this point, you might be feeling pretty anxious about how to secure your online accounts. Take a deep breath, though, because you have a lot of tools at your disposal to thwart cyber criminals and keep your data in your hands alone.

1. Use strong and unique passwords for each account

Create passwords that are at least 12 characters long and include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using easily guessable information like your name or birthdate. Using a unique password for each account ensures that if one account is compromised, the others remain secure.

2. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible

2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to provide a second form of verification, such as a code sent to your phone, in addition to your password. This makes it much more difficult for attackers to gain unauthorized access to your accounts.

3. Update your passwords regularly and avoid reusing them

It's important to update your passwords periodically, especially if you suspect any account may have been compromised. Avoid reusing passwords across multiple accounts, as this increases the risk of multiple accounts being compromised if one is breached.

4. Be cautious of phishing emails and messages

Phishing is a common tactic used by cybercriminals to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information. Be skeptical of emails or messages asking for personal information or containing suspicious links. Verify the sender's authenticity and avoid clicking on any suspicious links or providing personal information unless you are certain it is safe

5. Keep your operating system, software, and antivirus programs up to date

 Regularly updating your operating system, software, and antivirus programs is crucial in protecting against known vulnerabilities. These updates often include security patches that address potential weaknesses that could be exploited by attackers.

6. Use a reliable and secure password manager

Password managers help you generate strong, unique passwords for each account and store them securely. They also save you the hassle of remembering multiple passwords. Choose a reputable password manager that uses encryption to protect your passwords.

7. Enable login notifications or alerts

Many online platforms offer the option to receive notifications or alerts whenever a login attempt is made from an unrecognized device or location. Enabling these notifications allows you to quickly identify and respond to any suspicious activity on your accounts.

8. Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for sensitive transactions

Public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured, making it easier for attackers to intercept your data. Avoid accessing sensitive accounts or conducting financial transactions on public Wi-Fi networks. If you must use public Wi-Fi, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet connection.

9. Use a secure browser

Use a browser that was designed with privacy and security in mind. For example, Shift uses enhanced security measures to ensure your data remains private and protected. Additionally, Shift offers a secure password import for all of your bookmarks, accounts, and passwords in one place. This means less storing of various passwords across different platforms and devices. Plus, Shift is made to help you cut down on too many open tabs, which leaves internet users more vulnerable.

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10. Be wary of downloading files or clicking on links from unknown or untrusted sources

Malicious files or links can be used to install malware or steal your personal information. Only download files or click on links from trusted sources, and be cautious of attachments or links in emails or messages from unknown senders.

11. Use encryption tools, such as a virtual private network (VPN)

VPNs encrypt your internet connection, making it more difficult for attackers to intercept your data. This is especially important when accessing the internet on public networks, as it adds an extra layer of security.

12. Regularly monitor your financial accounts

Keep a close eye on your financial accounts for any unauthorized transactions. Set up alerts or notifications for any unusual activity and report any suspicious transactions to your financial institution immediately.

13. Enable automatic updates for your devices and applications

Automatic updates ensure that your devices and applications receive the latest security patches and bug fixes. Keeping your software up to date helps protect against known vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.

14. Set up a firewall

A firewall acts as a barrier between your network and the internet, filtering incoming and outgoing network traffic. It helps prevent unauthorized access to your network and adds an extra layer of protection against cyber threats.

15. Educate yourself about common online threats and best practices

Stay informed about the latest online threats and best practices for online security. Regularly educate yourself on topics such as phishing, malware, and social engineering techniques. By staying informed, you can better protect yourself and make informed decisions regarding your online security.

Social Media Best Practices

Social media is a breeding ground for various scams and other data breaches or cyber crimes. It’s far too easy to create accounts that impersonate a made-up or specific person, and people tend to be too trusting of what they see on social media. There are a few extra best practices that should be done to protect your privacy online when it comes to social media use.

  • Regularly review privacy settings - as we mentioned above about other online platforms, it’s a good idea to periodically go over the privacy settings you have chosen for your social media platforms. These apps are updated all the time and sometimes have new terms or security features baked in. Make sure you’re still protected and take advantage of all of the options that can keep you safe.
  • Be mindful of what you share - Think twice before sharing personal or sensitive information on social media. Be cautious about sharing your location, vacation plans, photos of your children, etc. Lots of information can be used maliciously and you’d be surprised what cyber criminals pay attention to. Any hint that you are not at your residence or that you might not be paying close attention to day-to-day things (such as when you’re on vacation) is a signal for in-person crimes like theft.
  • Monitor your accounts - Regularly review your social media accounts for any suspicious activity. Report any unauthorized access or suspicious behavior immediately. If friends tell you that “you” reached out to them on a social platform, and you know you didn’t, immediately change your passwords and report to the social media platform.

By implementing these tactics and staying vigilant, you can significantly enhance the security of your online accounts and protect your personal information from cyber threats. Make sure to follow our blog for more actionable advice. We cover tips, trends, and tools in the tech space so that you can make the most of your browser and your time spent online.