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Cybersecurity do’s and don’ts for the upcoming year.

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The new year may bring new threats. Here’s how to stay a step ahead.

Do secure your home gadgets.
Wireless-enabled home gadgets — connected lighting, smart thermostats and the like — are increasingly-popular gifts for the holiday season. But that also means hackers and thieves will be figuring out how to use these devices to access valuable private information. Make sure you’re using a secure password for your home Wi-Fi and that you’re always updating software to the latest version.

Don’t click.
Think those suspicious fake emails are a thing of the past? Think again. Phishing is still a huge threat and the criminals perpetrating these crimes are getting better at what they do. If you get an email saying it’s from your bank, the government, or another official-seeming source requesting personal or other sensitive information, be cautious. The best policy is to stop, don’t click, and verify through official channels (calling the number on the back of your card, finding contact information from official government websites, etc.). Yes, this can be a minor hassle, but all it takes is one successful phishing attempt to create a major data-exposure nightmare.

Do use multi-factor authentication.
What in the world is multi-factor authentication, you ask? It’s really pretty simple, and it’s becoming more and more standard for web accounts. Essentially, it means that you can’t log into your online account with just a password. Typically you’ll also need to answer security questions, enter a temporary code sent to another device (like your phone) or use a separate app to verify you’re actually you. As criminals get smarter and data gets more vulnerable, multi-factor authentication will become the norm, rather than just an extra layer of security.

Don’t use unsecured public Wi-Fi.
As you’re using your smartphone or computer out and about, you may be tempted to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot, free for public use. After all, who can argue with "free," especially since data plans are getting more expensive and data demands more extensive. But if that free hotspot is unsecured and you connect your phone to it, nearby hackers could help themselves to your data — websites visited, messages and apps with saved passwords. For this reason, it’s best to avoid public, unsecured networks and connect cautiously.

The start of the new year means new tech gadgets and gear. Just remember that every connection you make may be an opportunity for criminals.

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