Tips for staying cyber-savvy at home

The phrases “stay at home” and “work from home” have become common for many of us these days. And while technology makes it possible for us to do those things more easily, it can also present new opportunities for cybercriminals.

The Justice Department has warned that criminals are trying to exploit COVID-19 fears through a variety of scams. Those include phishing emails, malicious websites and fraudulent donation requests.

For tips on how to stay safe from hackers and be our best cyber-selves, we chatted with Geek Squad Agent Zach Timlin.

Change your Wi-Fi password

Many routers and modems, which help connect your devices to the internet, come with built-in default passwords that are short and easy to use during the set-up process. But easy for setup may also mean easy to hack.

 “[Anyone] with access to your router’s password can access your internet or change the router’s settings,” Agent Timlin explained. With access to your network, hackers could lock you out of your own internet connection, potentially interfere with your smart home devices and have easier access to your personal information.

Agent Timlin’s tip? Change your Wi-Fi password — and all passwords for that matter — regularly. You can find how to do this in your router’s manual or by searching your router make/model online.

“Think of it as part of your spring-cleaning check list,” he said. “I personally update my Wi-Fi password every six to eight months.”

Click here for more tips on how to get the most out of your wireless connection.

Keep your device software up to date

You want to make sure you have the latest versions of the software you use on your laptops, cellphones and smart home devices. Software updates keep your devices safe and healthy.  

“They’re like an oil change. If you neglect it, it could cause you to blow your engine,” Agent Timlin said, noting that delaying updates leaves your devices vulnerable to attacks, viruses or malware.

Use multi-factor authentication

Many devices and applications now have multi-factor authentication (MFA) options in place. Examples include fingerprint scanning or facial recognition your smartphone uses, or the unique second passcode required when logging in to certain sites.

Most smartphones, banking and financial institutions, and mobile apps have these features. You can typically find them in the security settings within the app or in your account settings.

“If it’s is an option, you know I’m using it,” Agent Timlin said.  

Keep kids safe, too

With online learning and screen time at an all-time high, it’s critical to encourage children to use good behavior online. While we want to inspire them to explore  the wonders of technology, we should also teach them about the potential dangers.

Use these concepts and topics when talking with kids about cybersecurity:

  • What you do online is an extension of your real-world self. 
  • Crimes that happen in real life, such as stealing, also happen on the internet.
  • Nothing posted online is ever truly gone (even if it’s deleted).
  • Stranger danger — be cautious when talking to people you don’t know. 

Also discuss:

  • Recognizing and avoiding online scams.
  • Posting on social media.
  • Creating strong passwords.
  • Keeping personal information private.  

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also provides more resources here.

Beware of fraudsters and scams

Fraudsters and criminals are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by preying on consumers. Be cautious when answering calls from unknown numbers, and don’t give out personal or financial information.

Learn more about digital safety and protecting yourself against fraud.