5 ways to stay ‘cyber safe’ through the holidays

By The Health News Team | December 7, 2023
Woman online shopping with laptop computer and credit card

Seventy percent of Americans shop online, adding up to over 268 million digital shoppers. Whether you prefer the traditional brick-and-mortar stores or the convenience of virtual shopping, one thing's for sure: The holiday season is in full swing, and scammers are on the prowl.

Luckily, according to Chase Franzen, vice president of IT Risk Management and chief information security officer at Sharp HealthCare, there are things you can do to create a cyber secure environment. Check these 5 to-dos off your safety list before getting back to your shopping list.

1

Create strong, long and unique passwords.

Make your passwords as strong as a healthy immune system, as random as a complex DNA sequence, and as unique as a fingerprint. In the same way you take care of your health, choosing strong passwords can help protect your online well-being and keep your personal information in safe hands.

An example of a strong password is “standingMio8strong.” It includes 18 characters, both lower- and uppercase letters, a number, and words you're likely to remember but aren't related to easily guessed personal information, such as your child’s name. When allowed, a symbol, such as an exclamation mark or pound sign, can also add variety. 

Every website should get its own unique password. A good tip would be to use a password manager, so you only need to remember the one password to get into the manager itself.

2

Don’t put off updates.

When you see an update alert on your device, it's tempting to choose "Remind me later." But did you know that many software updates are designed to fix security risks?

To make it convenient for yourself and to avoid missed safety opportunities, you can turn on automatic updates in the security settings of your device. That way, you won't have to worry about doing manual updates as needed.

In addition to your phone, make sure you are updating your smart TV, other smart devices, and your home internet modem and router.

3

Practice a healthy dose of skepticism.

When it comes to electronic communication, such as emails, texts or phone calls, it's important to have a skeptical mindset. Scammers often try to make you feel rushed, worried or scared, so you'll act without thinking.

Keep an eye on text messages or emails that claim to be about an incoming package or urge you to click a link for confirmation. Similarly, be cautious of phone calls from individuals claiming to be from your bank or financial institutions and requesting your personal information.

4

Check for seasonal tricks and heartstring tugs.

Scammers follow seasonal trends. During tax season, they may try to trick you with fake tax-related schemes. During the holidays, they might try to tug at your heartstrings and take advantage of your gift-buying or donation excitement. So, be sure to verify the legitimacy of donation websites before you show generosity in the season of giving.

5

Enroll in multifactor authentication.

Multifactor authentication (MFA), or two-factor authentication, adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. Basically, it means you need to use a second method to prove it's really you.

For instance, if you were to call your bank to inquire about your account, they would ask to send a code to your cellphone or other verification tools to confirm your identity. Your bank would never give you information without going through various steps of confirming your identity.

Enroll in multifactor authentication wherever it's offered, Franzen says. It’s simple and extremely effective.

The holidays should be full of joy and celebration, not of fraud fears or cancelling credit cards. By following these tips, you can help prevent scammers from ruining this special season.

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Chase Franzen

Contributor

Chase Franzen is the vice president of IT Risk Management and the chief information security officer at Sharp HealthCare.


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