CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is reminding West Virginia consumers to take simple security measures to ensure that their online identity remains protected and that electronic devices stay safe.
October is cyber security month, which is an easy way to remind people, whether they are senior citizens, business owners, parents, or teens, to take precautions to ensure their personal information remains private,” Morrisey said in a press release. “Data breaches at banks, health care providers and major retailers in recent months should serve as a wake-up call for consumers about how easy it is to have their information compromised.
"Everyone needs to take steps to ensure private information remains private, identities are protected, and our personal electronic devices do not get hacked.”
Morrisey suggested these cyber safety tips for citizens:
- Change your passwords every three months and make sure you don’t use the same password for different websites or devices. Cyber security experts advise against using common words or number combinations. If you have trouble remembering different passwords, think of an easy-to-remember sentence, and create your password by using the first letter of each word. To make the password site specific, insert the first and last letters of the website name at the beginning and end of your password.
- Protect all devices that connect to the Internet. Computers, smart phones, gaming systems, and other web-enabled devices need protection from viruses and malware.
- Be cautious online. When shopping, paying bills or doing other online activities that requiring personal or financial information, make sure the website is security enabled with “https://” or “shttp://” Also look at domain names to make sure they are spelled correctly and do not use weird characters. Be wary if a website used poor grammar or misspells words. It may be a fake website designed to make you think it’s a well-known business.
- Do not open unsolicited emails or visit suspicious websites. Never provide your credit card number, bank account information, or other personal information in response to an unsolicited email or suspicious Internet website. Do not open attachments unless you know the sender and recognize what they have attached.
- Report suspicious activity or online fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.
Morrisey also urged people, especially teens and senior citizens, to be very careful about whom they befriend online.
“A scammer may pretend to be anyone online, so approach any person you meet with the proper amount of caution,” he said. “Be wary if an online acquaintance starts asking for money or other assistance for himself, herself, or a family member. And if you opt to meet an online friend in person, bring along a friend or family member.
"While most people you meet online will be honest, there is always a chance someone may be trying to mask who they are so they can take advantage of you.”
Morrisey said cyber security isn’t limited to individuals. Business owners also must take steps to ensure their companies’ identities are protected online.
“As we have seen so much this year, hackers can and will try to take advantage of a business’s weak spots, so business owners must be aggressive and protect themselves,” Morrisey said. “Businesses of all sizes should regularly invest in and use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, use a firewall and encrypting information, and establish policies to protect employees’, customers’, and clients’ sensitive information.”