hacker with a face mask on holding a laptop

7 Things You Should Do to Prevent Cybercrime from Hacking Your Life

You Might Be Vulnerable to Hackers and Cybercrime

The only 2 things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. Everything else is fair game—much of which can hurt us.

That being said, there are proactive measures we can take to decrease our chances and the impact of bad events happening to us or our loved ones.

Cybercrime (it’s like someone sneaking into your house and taking your personal information—but electronically) is one event that we all need to be on guard against.

To put it in perspective, the estimated loss from cybercrime ranges from $60 billion to $110 billion a year, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.[1] Globally, software provider McAfee estimates the global market for cybercrime to be a whopping $600 billion and growing.[2]

The nasty impact of cybercrime is more than just dollars and cents. It affects the lives of real people.  Consider the massive data breach of over 140 million personal records at credit scoring agency Equifax.[3] Target and the Department of Defense (DOD) made the news in the last few years for a similar problem.

Assuming each of these records represent a unique individual, nearly 1 out of 2 Americans alive today would be affected.

The reports are shocking. So, what can you do?


You Can Defend Yourself from Hackers and Cybercrime

While no one can guarantee you’ll never be hacked, there are some things you can do to make yourself a difficult target – and lower your chances of becoming a victim of cyber crimes.

  1. Protect your identity.

    FINRA has a couple of helpful checklists on protecting your identity and your finances.[4]  Also, develop a proactive strategy to protect your passwords.[5] Even something simple like changing your passwords often or complicating it with numbers and symbols.

  2. Safeguard your personal computer.

    Purchase and get regular updates for your antivirus and other security software, as well as installing a physical firewall for your home network.

  3. Don’t surf on public networks (like Starbuck’s) unless you are willing to invest in a Virtual Private Network.

    Some hackers will sit in the restaurant near you and intercept your traffic (including usernames and passwords).  You put yourself at great risk if you access sensitive information in public, unsafe places.

  4. Be careful of suspicious Emails from unfamiliar sources.

    (This is one form of “phishing”, a popular hacker tactic to force you to divulge your personal information to intruders.)

  5. Be careful of Emails that demand your personal information or passwords.

    Even if they claim to be from a major vendor (such as Amazon, a bank or credit card company), verify and do not trust.  Do not give them your information.  If you really think it is legitimate, call the number for the company you know (on your credit card, not on the Email) to make sure the Email is not a forgery from a hacker.  (This is a more subtle form of “phishing”.  Don’t fall for it!)

  6. Beware of fake requests from unfamiliar phone numbers or websites.

    Let them leave a voicemail.  Check out whether the phone number or website address is legitimate by typing the name and/or phone number on Google and look for reviews.  In many cases, you will find comments that indicate they are either scams or simply aggressive telemarketers.  There is no need to call them back. Neither should you download anything to “win a prize” or “get a free update”.

  7. Beware of phone or electronic scams even from familiar sources. Especially beware if someone you do not know offers to “repair your computer” remotely.

    Unless you initiated the phone call and have complete confidence that you know the person on the other line is legitimate, do not by any means trust someone with your computer.  They might be infecting your computer to collect your personal information!


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[1] “The Cost of Malicious Cyber Activity to the U.S. Economy”, The Council of Economic Advisers, February 2018 on https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/The-Cost-of-Malicious-Cyber-Activity-to-the-U.S.-Economy.pdf  accessed on September 27, 2018.
[2] Lynette Lau, “Cybercrime ‘pandemic’ may have cost the world $600 billion last year”, CNBC, February 22, 2018, on https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/cybercrime-pandemic-may-have-cost-the-world-600-billion-last-year.html  accessed on September 27, 2018.
[3] “The Cost of Malicious Cyber Activity to the U.S. Economy”, The Council of Economic Advisers, February 2018, 14  on https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/The-Cost-of-Malicious-Cyber-Activity-to-the-U.S.-Economy.pdf  accessed on September 27, 2018.
[4] “Protect Your Identity”, FINRA on http://www.finra.org/investors/protect-your-identity  accessed on September 27, 2018.  “Safeguarding Your Financial Information: An Identity Theft Protection Checklist”, FINRA on http://www.finra.org/investors/safeguarding-your-financial-information-identity-theft-prevention-checklist  accessed on September 27, 2018.
[5] Bree Fowler, “Tips for Better Passwords”, Consumer Reports, June 27, 2018, on https://www.consumerreports.org/digital-security/tips-for-better-passwords/  accessed on September 27, 2018.

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