Cyber security in 2019.

A new year… and a new set of things to worry about.

This post is the result of a perfect storm of different things, including last week’s Collection #1 data breach, and this story about the biggest cybercrime threats in 2019. It contains warnings about phishing, ransomware, ad fraud, ad nauseum. It’s depressing, and it makes one dream of throwing one’s own phone and computer into the nearest lake.

But running and hiding (and throwing your electronics into a lake) aren’t answers, so we thought it was time to suggest a few things that will help keep you secure this year – and hopefully, beyond.

First, never click on an email link. Ever. Scammers have become particularly good at replicating emails from legitimate services like PayPal or Apple with hopes that you’ll let down your guard, click their supplied link, and handover all your important account information. Just remember this: if there is an actual issue with your account, you can always close the email, open a browser window, go to the company’s legitimate and secure web site,  login, and check your account details from there. Or, you can call the company in question at the contact number (supplied via their legitimate web site). Always assuming that email links are bogus is a good first step in cyber security.

It’s also a good idea to enable two-factor authentication for your apps and accounts. This provides an extra layer of security for your online info. (But we also urge you to ensure you have a back-up for the two-factor system; the link we’ve posted above will take you to How-To Geek’s explanation on this process.)

Change your account passwords regularly, and make sure they’re tough to crack. You can test your new passwords at How Secure Is My Password, a tool provided by Dashlane that gauges how long it would take a computer to crack your password. And speaking of passwords: a password manager can be helpful. Check out this list of the best password managers to see which might suit your needs and budget.

If you fear your info has been compromised, enter your email address at Have I Been Pwned to see if it has been part of a breach. (You will have to sign up for alerts to see exactly which sites have been breached, but the service is free and we haven’t seen any evidence of misuse of email addresses at this point.) Pwned Passwords will also check to see if your passwords are listed as part of a breach.

The sad truth is that as vigilant as we all try to be, there will always be someone building a new online scam. But a few personal rules and online tools can help you stay safe in the digital world.

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