Most Iowans know better than to make their computer password something like the word “password” or A-B-C-1-2-3, but even good passwords need to be changed frequently.
Cybersecurity expert Todd Pritchard says the best thing to do in protecting your digital data is to use multiple, secure passwords.
“Don’t use one password for every login that you have,” Pritchard says. “That’s a recipe for disaster because if that password is compromised in one location, if they find it in one spot, the cybercriminal will go and try to find your name in other locations and try that same password.”
He recommends writing all of those passwords down and keeping them in a safe place for reference, somewhere away from your computer.
“Don’t go crazy on it,” Pritchard says. “Even if you use three or four different passwords, that’s going to help a lot. The really big key is just don’t use one password for everything. That will save you a lot of potential harm.”
Passwords should be created with a combination of numbers, letters and also symbols, if allowed. Most of us get spam messages that look legitimate, but they could containing a virus or malware.
If you get an email from what appears to be a familiar address but it looks suspicious, that friend’s account may have been hijacked and you should act accordingly.
“Throw that out, don’t click on the link, because sometimes as soon as you click on that link, the cybercriminal can install malicious software on your computer,” Pritchard says. “When in doubt, throw it out. If it’s coming from someone you know, maybe give them a call and say, ‘What’s this all about? Did you send me this?'”
Despite the temptation of free Internet access, he says it’s important to be very careful of Wi-Fi hotspots at airports or coffee shops.
“I would strongly recommend, don’t send email, don’t do online banking or any kind of financial transactions on a free Wi-Fi,” Pritchard says. “It’s just too easy for someone to electronically eavesdrop on you and pick up information you don’t want them to have.”
He says to keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates when prompted.