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Learn about today's current internet threats and how to stay safe and secure.

Security Tip of the Day

Daily tips to create awareness of cyber threats and empower Total Defense users to be safer and more secure online with our security tips and resources..

June 2024

Don’t trash your tech — securely erase old hard drives

We all have them – dusty drawers overflowing with old tech. But before you toss that ancient hard drive or USB stick, hold on! Just because you deleted the files doesn’t mean they’re truly gone. Scary, right? Here’s the deal: with some know-how, techy folks can potentially recover data from those “deleted” devices.

So, how can you ensure your old tech doesn’t become a security nightmare? Here are a few tips:

  • Storage is Your Superhero: Instead of chucking your old drives, consider storing them securely. Think of it like putting your digital documents in a locked filing cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind (and out of reach of prying eyes).
  • Shredding for the Digital Age: Okay, you can’t literally shred a hard drive (trust us, it won’t end well for your computer!). But there are software programs specifically designed to securely erase data from storage devices. These programs overwrite the data on the drive multiple times, making it virtually impossible to recover.
  • Physically Destructive (as a Last Resort): If you’re super worried about sensitive data, and complete destruction is the only option, you can get physical. This involves dismantling the drive and physically destroying the platters where the data is stored. However, this is a last resort – it’s not for the faint of heart (or the mechanically challenged!).

By following these simple tips, you can transform your old tech from a potential security risk into a harmless relic of the past.


Heads up—don’t fall for imposter scams

Ever get a call or email claiming you owe the IRS money, or that your social security number is in danger? You’re not alone! These are imposter scams, a sneaky tactic where someone pretends to be a trusted source to steal your information or money.

Here’s how to spot these imposters before they trick you:

  • They Play the Authority Card: Imposters love to impersonate important figures – government officials, tech support reps, even family members in trouble. They try to create a sense of urgency or fear to pressure you into acting quickly.
  • Phishing for Info: Emails or calls from imposters often ask for personal information like your Social Security number, bank details, or passwords. Remember, legitimate organizations won’t ask for this sensitive information via email or phone.
  • Scare Tactics 101: Imposters love to play on your emotions. They might threaten to suspend your social security number, arrest you for tax evasion, or shut down your utility services. Don’t panic! These are scare tactics to cloud your judgment.

The key to avoiding imposter scams is knowledge! By being aware of the tactics they use, you can protect yourself from falling victim.


Lock it down — securing your bigger tech toys

We all love our laptops, TVs, and other big-ticket tech gadgets. But let’s face it, they can be tempting targets for thieves. Here’s a tip you might not have considered: many devices come with built-in security features you might be overlooking!

  • Security Slots: Your Device’s Secret Weapon: Look closely at your laptop or TV. See those small holes near the Kensington lock symbol? Those are security slots! These slots allow you to secure your device to a desk or other immovable object with a special lock (sold separately). Think of it like putting an anchor on your tech boat – it makes it much harder to steal.
  • Mounting Marvels: Mounting options are another great way to physically secure your devices. Many TVs and even some laptops can be mounted on walls or desks using special brackets. This not only frees up space but also makes them less accessible to grab-and-go thieves.

Security slots and mounting options might seem like small details, but they can make a big difference in deterring theft.


Public computers—don’t leave your digital doors unlocked

Public computers at libraries or cafes can be lifesavers – need to print something, check an email, or browse the web? They’ve got you covered. But here’s the thing: public computers can also be a security risk if you’re not careful. The biggest culprit? Forgetting to log out!

Imagine leaving your house without locking the door – that’s kind of what happens when you don’t log out of your accounts on a public computer. Anyone who uses the computer after you could potentially access your information. Yikes!

Here’s how to make sure your public computer pitstop is a secure one:

  • The Great Logout: This might seem obvious, but it’s the most important step. Before you even think about leaving that library computer, log out of EVERY SINGLE ACCOUNT you used. Email, social media, online banking – everything! Most websites have a clear “Log Out” button – find it and click it!
  • Close those Tabs: Don’t just log out – close all your open tabs too. This ensures any lingering bits of information aren’t easily accessible. Think of it like cleaning up your workspace before you leave.
  • Clear Your History (Just in Case): Some public computers might offer the option to clear your browsing history. While not always necessary, it can add an extra layer of security. It’s like wiping the whiteboard clean for the next person.

By following these simple steps, you can transform public computers from a security risk into a safe and convenient tool.


Free Wi-Fi—friend or foe—stay safe on public networks

We’ve all been there: stuck at the airport or a coffee shop, desperate for a Wi-Fi connection. Free Wi-Fi sounds tempting but hold on to your virtual horses! Unsecured public Wi-Fi can be a wild west of security risks. Here’s how to navigate the world of public Wi-Fi safely:

  • Think Before You Connect: Free Wi-Fi with no encryption is like leaving your front door wide open – anyone can potentially eavesdrop and steal your information. If the network doesn’t require a password, it’s best to avoid it altogether.
  • Public Wi-Fi? Practice Good Internet Hygiene: Let’s say you absolutely must use free Wi-Fi. In that case, be extra careful about what you do online. Avoid logging into sensitive accounts like banking or online shopping, especially those that require passwords or credit card information. Think of it like using a public restroom – you wouldn’t take a shower there, would you?
  • Hotspot Hero: Did you know your phone can be a Wi-Fi hotspot hero? Many smartphones allow you to create a secure personal hotspot for your other devices. Sure, it might use some of your mobile data, but it’s a much safer option than free Wi-Fi, especially for sensitive tasks.

By following these simple tips, you can transform free Wi-Fi from a potential security nightmare into a convenient tool. So go forth and explore the digital world, but do it safely!


Trip time—don’t forget to backup your digital memories

Packing for a trip? Don’t forget to throw in some digital security! Lost phones, stolen tablets – these things happen, especially when you’re navigating unfamiliar territory. Here’s how to make sure your precious vacation pics and travel info are safe, ensuring your memories stay secure even if your device doesn’t:

  • Backup Brigade: Think of your data as your travel souvenirs. Before you jet off, back up your phone and other devices. This could be to a laptop you’re bringing, an external hard drive tucked safely in your bag, or a cloud storage service you can access from anywhere. The best practice? Use a combination of these methods! Having multiple backups creates a safety net in case one option becomes unavailable. For example, if you lose your laptop, your cloud backup will still be there for you.
  • Cloud Nine Security: Cloud storage services are lifesavers for travelers. They offer tons of space to store your photos, videos, and documents, all accessible from any internet connection with a web browser or app. Imagine being able to share those stunning sunset pics with friends back home instantly, or access important travel documents like hotel confirmations or e-tickets in a pinch. Just choose a reputable cloud storage service with a strong security track record. Read reviews, compare features, and don’t forget to set up a strong password (and enable two-factor authentication if offered) to keep your data safe in the cloud.
  • More Than Memories: It’s not just photos and videos that deserve a digital vacation. Consider backing up your contacts – losing your phone in a foreign country wouldn’t be fun without a way to reach your travel buddy or family back home! Financial information like credit card numbers or banking details can be especially vulnerable while traveling. While you wouldn’t want to store this type of sensitive data directly in the cloud, consider using a secure password manager app to create encrypted backups. Just remember, never store your actual passwords in plain text anywhere! Finally, any important travel documents you might have scanned, like passport copies or itineraries, can also be included in your backups. That way, if your device goes missing, you won’t lose vital information that could disrupt your trip.

By taking a few minutes to back up your data before you embark on your adventure, you can relax and enjoy your trip with peace of mind. No more worries about losing those once-in-a-lifetime travel photos, or scrambling to remember contact details if your phone takes a tumble. Now go forth, explore the world, and capture those digital memories – knowing they’re safe and sound, ready to be cherished for years to come!


Texting smackdown—iMessage vs. SMS—what you need to know

Ever wondered why your iPhone messages are sometimes blue and sometimes green? It’s all about iMessage and SMS, two different texting options. But the difference goes way beyond just the color.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • iMessage: Think of this as the VIP section of texting. iMessages are those fancy blue bubbles, exclusive to Apple devices. They’re encrypted, which means your messages are scrambled like a secret code – only you and the receiver can read them. Plus, you can send photos, videos, and other fun stuff with ease.
  • SMS: These are the old-school green bubbles. They’re like postcards – anyone who intercepts them can potentially read them! While they work on pretty much any phone, they’re not as feature-rich as iMessages.

The Takeaway: For super secure chats and sharing cool stuff, stick with iMessage when texting between Apple devices. But if you’re reaching out to someone with a different phone, SMS is your only option. Just remember to be mindful of what you send over SMS, since it’s not as secure.


Insta-savvy—take control of your app permissions

We all love connecting our favorite apps to make life easier. Maybe you use a service to print your Instagram pics, or another to share them to other platforms. But here’s the thing: when you connect apps, you give them access to your information.

Think of it like lending a friend your keys – it’s convenient, but you want to make sure they only access what they need. That’s where app permissions come in!

Here’s how to manage app permissions on Instagram:

  1. Open the Instagram app and tap your profile picture in the bottom right corner.
  2. Tap the three horizontal lines in the top right corner, then select “Settings.”
  3. Scroll down and tap “Security.”
  4. Under “Apps and Websites,” you’ll see a list of all the services connected to your Instagram account.

Now’s the fun part! You can review each connection and decide if you still want to grant access. If not, simply tap on the service and toggle off the permission you want to revoke.

Taking control of your app permissions is a simple but powerful way to protect your privacy on Instagram. So go forth and connect responsibly!


Lost phone panic—find my device to the rescue

Ever misplaced your phone and felt a mini-heart attack coming on? We’ve all been there. But for Android users, there’s a handy tool called “Find My Device” that can help ease your worries.

Here’s how it works: Imagine Find My Device as a personal GPS tracker for your phone. You can log in to your Google account (the one linked to your phone) from any web browser and see exactly where your device is located on a map.

But Find My Device can do even more! If your phone is truly lost or stolen, you can take some extra steps:

  • Make it Ring: Even if your phone is on silent, Find My Device can blast an ear-splitting alarm to help you locate it.
  • Lock it Down: Worried about someone snooping? You can remotely lock your phone with a PIN or password, keeping your data safe.
  • Wipe it Clean: As a last resort, you can completely erase all your data from the phone. This is a drastic measure, but it ensures no one can access your personal information.

Find My Device is a lifesaver for lost or stolen Android phones. By setting it up beforehand, you can save yourself a lot of stress and potentially even protect your data.


Unlock your laptop like James Bond: ditch the password, go biometric!

We all love the convenience of leaving our laptops open for a quick coffee break. But what if someone stumbles upon your unlocked laptop and decides to take a peek? Yikes!

Here’s how to add a layer of security to your laptop login:

  • Password Power: Using a password is a good first step, like securing your door with a key. But passwords can be forgotten or even stolen.
  • Biometric Bonanza: This is where things get exciting! Biometric login uses your fingerprint or face scan – like a digital fingerprint or retina scan from a spy movie! It’s almost impossible to steal your fingerprint or face, making it super secure.

Windows Hello and Apple TouchID are two popular biometric login options. They’re like having a personal bodyguard for your laptop, ensuring only you can access your precious files.


Email isn’t safe for secrets: sending login info securely

Sharing passwords or usernames can be tricky. You want to help someone out, but you also don’t want their login info falling into the wrong hands. Here’s the deal: email isn’t exactly Fort Knox when it comes to security. Those messages could be intercepted by prying eyes.

So, how do you share login info securely? Here are a few better options:

  • Encrypted Messaging Apps: Think of these like secret tunnels for your messages. Apps like Telegram or iMessage offer encryption, which scrambles your message so only the recipient can read it.
  • Local Transfers: If you’re physically close to the person you need to share info with, consider using local transfer options. For example, Apple AirDrop lets you share files securely between Apple devices.

The key is to avoid sending sensitive information through unencrypted channels like email. By using these secure alternatives, you can share login info with peace of mind.


Ditch the defaults! Power up your IoT passwords

We all love our smart gadgets – smart speakers, robot vacuums, the whole crew. But here’s the thing: most of them come with factory-set passwords that are about as secure as a paper door. So, how do you turn your lovable but vulnerable IoT devices into fortress defenders?

Password Power Up

The first line of defense is strong, unique passwords for each device. Ditch the default settings – those are the first things hackers try! Here’s how to get creative:

  • Length Matters: Longer passwords are harder to crack. Many devices allow long passphrases – use that to your advantage! Think of a favorite movie quote or song lyric and add some numbers and symbols.
  • Get Personal (But Not Too Personal): Don’t use birthdays or pet names – hackers can guess those easily. Instead, take a favorite word and scramble it with numbers and symbols. For example, “LoVeMyDog” becomes “L0v3MyD0gg0!”
  • Be Unique: Resist the urge to reuse the same password for everything. If one device gets hacked, they all could be at risk!

Taking control of your IoT device passwords is a simple but powerful way to keep your smart home secure.

Don’t let your smart home be easy pickings! Learn how to create strong IoT passwords: [link to blog post] #SecurityTipoftheDay (278 characters)


Make sure your smart devices stay secure

We love our smart devices – thermostats that learn our habits, refrigerators that order groceries – but with all that convenience comes a little responsibility: security. Here’s the thing: smart tech relies on data, and that data needs protection.

Imagine your smart devices are like chatty friends, constantly exchanging information to get things done. While that’s how they work, it also means there’s a chance for someone to eavesdrop and steal your data.

So, how do we keep our smart devices secure? Here are a few tips:

  • Security Basics Still Apply: Even though they’re fancy, smartphones, laptops, and printers are still vulnerable to traditional security threats. Keep your software up-to-date, use strong passwords, and be careful about what information you share on these devices.
  • Wireless Wisdom: Many smart devices connect over Wi-Fi. Make sure your Wi-Fi network is secure with a strong password and encryption. Think of it like a secret handshake – only authorized devices get to join the party!
  • Read the Manual (Yes, Really!): Device manuals are full of useful information, including security settings you might not know about. Take some time to explore them – your future self will thank you!

By following these simple tips, you can transform your smart tech from a potential security risk into a safe and reliable companion.


Social media smarts: lock down your privacy settings

Social media is all about sharing, but how much are you REALLY sharing? Let’s be honest, we don’t always want the whole world to see everything. That’s where social media privacy settings come in! They’re like little shields that protect your personal information.

Here’s how to take control of your social media privacy:

  • Privacy Checkup: Most social media platforms have privacy settings – it’s time to explore them! Review who can see your posts, friend requests, and profile information. Adjust these settings to your comfort level. You might be surprised at what’s publicly available by default!
  • Location, Location, Maybe Not: Geotagging adds your location to your posts. While it can be fun to share where you vacationed, it can also be a security risk. Consider disabling geotagging, especially for posts that reveal your home location.

Being mindful of your privacy settings is a simple but powerful way to stay safe on social media. So go forth and share responsibly!


Public Wi-Fi? Not for banking! Stay secure with these tips

We all love free Wi-Fi, but hold on before you log in to your bank account at that coffee shop. Public Wi-Fi networks can be risky, like leaving your front door wide open. Hackers could potentially lurk around, waiting to snatch your information.

So, how can you bank safely on the go? Here are two simple solutions:

  • Cellular Connection: Your phone’s cellular data might not be free, but it’s usually a secure way to access your bank. Think of it like a private line for your financial business.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN): A VPN is like a secure tunnel for your internet traffic. It encrypts your data, making it unreadable even if someone is eavesdropping on the Wi-Fi network.

Using cellular data or a VPN adds an extra layer of security when you need to access sensitive information like your bank account. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind!


Double the lock, double the security: protect your banking app

Banking apps hold the keys to your financial kingdom – your money, your accounts, everything! That’s why it’s extra important to keep them super secure. Here’s a powerful tool you might not be using: two-factor authentication (2FA).

Think of 2FA like a double lock on your bank door. Even if someone gets hold of your password (the first lock), they still wouldn’t be able to get in without the second factor. This second factor could be a code sent to your phone via text message or a call, a fingerprint scan, or a special app.

Here’s why 2FA is awesome:

  • Extra Security Layer: It adds an extra layer of protection, making it much harder for hackers to steal your hard-earned cash.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing your bank account has an extra layer of security can give you peace of mind, especially when banking on the go.
  • Easy to Use: Setting up 2FA is usually quick and easy within your banking app.

Most banking apps offer 2FA, so check yours today and enable it! It’s a simple step that can make a big difference in protecting your financial information.


Password power: keep your secrets safe

Passwords are like the keys to your digital kingdom – they unlock your email, bank accounts, and all your precious online stuff. But just like a real key, you wouldn’t want anyone else to have a copy, right? Here’s how to keep your passwords strong and secure:

  • Loose Lips Sink Passwords: This one’s a no-brainer. Never share your passwords with anyone, not even your best friend or favorite aunt. Phishing scams often try to trick you into revealing your password via email or phone calls. Remember, legitimate companies won’t ask for your password this way.
  • One Password Does Not Rule Them All: Reusing the same password for everything is a big security risk. If a hacker cracks one password, they have access to all your accounts! Use unique and complex passwords for each of your important accounts.

Here are some bonus tips for creating strong passwords:

  • Mix it Up: Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The more random your password, the harder it is to guess.
  • Length Matters: Longer passwords are generally more secure. Aim for at least 12 characters.
  • Get Creative (But Not Too Creative): Don’t use personal information like your birthday or pet’s name in your password. Hackers can sometimes guess these easily. Instead, try using a memorable phrase and replacing some letters with numbers or symbols. For example, “ILovePizza!” could become “1Lv0P1zz4!”.

By following these simple tips, you can create a strong defense against password theft. Remember, a secure password is your first line of defense in the digital world.