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Lock your home against cyber criminals

cyberElectric co-ops protect the private information of members and ensure hackers don’t tamper with the reliability of the electric grid, but member-owners have a lot at stake, too. Think about losing all the photos on your smartphone or having bank or credit card information stolen from your computer.

Cyber criminals all over the world are on the prowl through the internet.

Just like washing your hands to keep you from getting bacteria, there are simple things you can do to protect yourself online. Here are tips for protecting yourself from internet dangers at work and home:

Create a strong password
Creating and remembering complex passwords can be daunting. To help make this easier to manage, think of a passphrase rather than a password. ILove!ceCr3am would be a good passphrase/password. And avoid using the same password for all your online accounts.

If it’s difficult to keep up with all the passwords for the different software and applications you use, at least focus on the main passwords that allow primary internet access, such as the ones that open your computer, phone and wireless router. Make it complicated, with a mix of uppercase and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Remember to change the password at least every six months.

Keep software updated
Updates often add security patches to protect against new threats. Updates usually come automatically from the software company. But take a level of caution on updates by checking regularly for updates.

Don’t click on a link or attached file unless you know where it will take you
A lot of the computer hacking problems result from people clicking on links or attached files that infect their computers or mobile devices. An email can even be disguised to look like it’s coming from your best friend, so simple diligence can be extremely beneficial. Take a moment and move your cursor over a link to reveal the full address before clicking it.

Install and use virus protection
Buy your anti-virus software from one of the recognized major companies, and make it a subscription-type service that regularly sends automatic updates.

Don’t use flash drives
Those little drives you insert into your USB port may be handy ways to share lots of photos or other large documents, but you don’t know where they’ve been. These portable memory devices have been another common way computers get infected with damaging software. Instead, learn to use software solutions for transferring large files.

Back up your devices
Make sure you have a current copy of everything on your computer or mobile device. Every few weeks, transfer your contents to an external storage system that you then unplug from your computer.

If you suffer a ransomware attack, you might need to take your computer to a professional to wipe everything off your hard drive and start over. But with a backup, you will be able to restore your most valuable documents.

Secure all your internet-connected devices
Hackers have started invading wireless printers and baby monitors that work through the internet. Read the instructions carefully, set good passwords, keep the devices updated and make sure any wireless routers in your home are secure as well. Any internet-connected device is vulnerable – smart TVs, cameras, voice-activated speakers, thermostats, video games, fitness bracelets, internet-connected refrigerators and even light bulbs.

Protect the kids
Don’t forget that children also need to be aware and practice good cyber hygiene. They should know not to share information such as birthdates and other ID numbers. Learn to use age-appropriate parental control options on your hardware and software, too.

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