10 Cyber Security Best Practices for Older Adults

“Protecting yourself online is all about planning ahead,” said Mark Matz, Director of Policy and Issues Management with the National Cyber Security Directorate at Public Safety Canada. “You might never encounter a security breach online, but it’s crucial to take the appropriate steps to ensure you don’t become an easy target.”

Consider these tips from Public Safety Canada, the National Cyber Security Alliance, The Stop Think and Connect campaign’s online safety tips for older adults, and the Home Instead Senior Care® network. And take the “Quiz: Can You Spot an Online Scam?”

  1. Create passwords and make them strong. Half of seniors do not use the password feature on at least one of their internet-enabled devices, leaving it open to whomever may pick it up, according to research conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network. Lock all of your devices including computer, tablet and smartphone with secure passwords. That will keep prying eyes out and add a line of defense in case your devices are lost or stolen. A strong password is at least 12 characters long. Strong password tips include the using a mix of letters, numbers and symbols, and try not to include personal information.

  2. Secure access to your accounts. Since passwords can be stolen, adding two-step authentication to accounts provides a second layer of protection. Many online services, including apps and websites, offer free options that could help you protect your information and ensure it’s actually you trying to access your account – not just someone with your password. Learn to “Lock Down Your Login” at www.lockdownyourlogin.com. And, for more information about two-step authentication, go to www.turnon2fa.com.

  3. Think before you act. Emails and communication that create a sense of urgency such as a problem with your bank account or taxes, is likely a scam. Consider reaching out to the company by phone to determine if the email is legitimate or not.

  4. When in doubt, throw it out. Clicking on links in emails is often how scammers get access to personal information. If an email looks unusual, even if you know the person who sent it, it’s best to delete it. Remember that scammers can commandeer friends’ email addresses and send you messages posing as them. Turn on spam filters for your email account to help filter suspicious messages.

  5. Share with care. Be aware of what you share publically on social media sites like Facebook. Adjust your privacy settings to limit who can see your information. Avoid sharing your location.

  6. Use security software. Install security software on your devices from a reliable source and keep it updated. It is best to run the anti-virus and anti-spyware software regularly. Be wary of security updates from pop-up ads or emails. They may actually be malware that could infect your computer.

  7. Adjust your browser safety settings. You likely search for news, information and products by using an internet browser such as Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari. Adjust your settings in each of those browsers to set your options for optimum security. Those menus can often be found in the upper right corner of your browser. Consider clearing your browsing history at the end of your session so you don’t leave a trail of sensitive data.

  8. Use the default firewall security protection on your computer. Your operating system (OS) likely has default firewall settings that will protect your computer without needing adjustment. If your antivirus software includes additional firewall protection that you can adjust separately, consider contacting a computer professional for assistance to ensure you’re safely protected without over-blocking sites and programs you use regularly.

  9. Log out. Remember to log out of apps and websites when you are done using them. Leaving them open on your computer screen could make you vulnerable to security and privacy risks.

  10. Consider support. If you live alone or spend a lot of time by yourself, consider a trusted source to serve as a second set of eyes and ears. Adult family members and grandchildren who are computer savvy may be willing to help. Or contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office for more information about how a CAREGiver℠ could assist you.

Education is the best form of protection. Learn more about the ways that hackers can open the door to your life.

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