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10 Cybersecurity Tips for Older Adults

You’ve probably read about the increase in cyber fraud and crime targeting older adults. It can come in the form of emails, phone calls, and junk mail. And it can be very hard to know what’s legitimate and what’s a scam aimed at collecting your sensitive personal information—and your hard earned savings. Practicing cyber safety can go a long way toward protecting you from these scams. “Cybersecurity is about risk reduction,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “It’s difficult to achieve perfect security. But you can work to make yourself a more difficult target.”

Consider these tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance:

Create passwords and make them strong

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 and includes a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. It can be hard to remember those long passwords. So if you write them down, don’t keep them near your devices. Consider sharing them only with a trusted loved one.

Secure access to your accounts

Since passwords can be stolen, adding two-step authentication to accounts provides a second layer of protection. This requires you to confirm your identity via an email sent to your personal inbox or a text sent to your phone whenever an unrecognized device is attempting to log into your account.

Think before you act

Emails and communication that create a sense of urgency such as a problem with your bank account, social security, or taxes are likely scams. Consider reaching out directly to the company by phone to determine if the email is legitimate or not.

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.

Share with care

Be aware of what you share publicly on social media sites like Facebook. Adjust your privacy settings to limit who can see your information. Avoid sharing your location. Another general safety rule for social media is to consider posting photos of your travels after your return from vacation so people won’t know your house is unoccupied.

Use security software

Install security software on your devices from a reliable source and keep it updated. It’s 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.

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, or 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.

Use the default firewall security protection on your computer

Your operating system 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.

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.

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 you determine if something you received via email or clicked on could compromise your cyber safety.

Electronic devices are wonderful at helping you stay connected to friends, loved ones, and everything that’s going on in the world. Practicing the cyber hygiene recommended above can keep you connected and help keep you safe. For more safety tips, visit our home safety page.

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