Total Defense

Security & Safety Resource Center

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.

September 2021

When setting up student loan payments, make sure you’re going through the right provider

When starting payments on your student loans, your payments will be handled by a provider. Identify what company is handling your student loans and follow instructions on how to set up your account. Student loan sites require sensitive information, like your Social Security number, address and your parents’ information. It’s important to make sure the website that you’re entering your information into is not only legitimate, but secure.


Use an external webcam

Laptops nowadays come standard with a webcam built in, which is certainly convenient but could pose a security risk since you never know if it’s completely turned off. Consider using an external webcam on your laptop, that way you can unplug it to make sure it’s off. As a bonus, external webcams tend to have a higher picture quality.


Log out of websites and apps when you’re finished

It’s very convenient to stay logged in to a website or app, but it creates some security risks. Attackers may be able to impersonate your session ID and hijack your account. When you’re finished, log out and use a password manager so it’s easy to log back in.


using your Google account when possible

It’s become common for websites to allow you to sign in with your Google account instead of making a new account on the website itself. Not only does it save you time, but it can be a more secure option that doesn’t require you to re-enter your personal information. The fewer sites with your personal information on file, the less likely it is to be leaked.


If you no longer use Facebook, consider deleting your account

Facebook harbors a trove of personal information about you and everyone else on the platform. If left unattended, your Facebook account could become a security risk. Between hackers and data breaches, you’re better off deleting your profile if it’s no longer in use. You also have the option to back up any photos or videos before doing so.


Don’t click on the unsubscribe button in spam email

Unsubscribe buttons are useful for removing your email address from high-volume mailing lists, like those from political campaigns or big box stores. However, they can also be used against you by spammers. Clicking these buttons confirms your account is in active use and in some cases may redirect to you a malicious webpage. Tagging the message as spam might be safer.


If you sign in frequently with a Google or Facebook account, enable two factor authentication

Signing in with your Google or Facebook account can greatly speed up the sign in process for a lot of websites, or if you’re visiting for the first time, skip the sign up process entirely. It’s incredibly convenient to be able to sign in everywhere with these accounts, but also poses a security risk. Be sure to enable two factor authentication so that Google and Facebook know to double check your identity by sending a code to your email or phone.


Let Google create a unique password for you

Google now has a feature where it will ask if you’d like to generate a unique password when signing up on a website. If you opt to do so, Google will create a strong password for that site and remember it for you. Google essentially acts as a password manager. This feature should be enabled by default but in case it’s not, here’s how to enable it:

  • Click on your profile picture in the top right corner, then click on “Passwords.”
  • Toggle the switch labeled “Offer to Save Passwords” to the on position.
  • Go to a site where you’d like to create an account.
  • When you click the password field, a pop-up from Google will suggest a strong one for you.
  • Click “Use Suggested Password.”
  • If you don’t see the prompt, right-click on the password field then click “Suggest Password.”
  • Google will save this password for you.

Change your passwords after a data breach notification

Strong passwords are among the best defenses against account hacking. Regularly changing them provides additional protection. If you receive a notification about a data breach affecting one of your accounts, that’s a good occasion to update all your passwords. It may be a good to also implement two-factor authentication on accounts if possible.


Don’t access your online banking app while on public WiFi

Being on a public WiFi network can pose all sorts of security risks, as you never know who else is connected. If you must use public WiFi, avoid using apps that contain any personal or financial information to mitigate the chance of it being stolen. If you need to access these apps while in public, think about setting up a VPN for safe browsing first.    


If Google warns that your passwords have been compromised, change them immediately

Google will notify you both in Chrome via pop-up and through email when any of your saved passwords are compromised. Change them as quickly as possible to prevent personal information from being leaked. It’s worth noting that you have to change passwords on each individual site where they were compromised. Passwords are most easily compromised when the same one is used across multiple sites. Take the time to create unique passwords for each account you create and let Google save them for you so you don’t have to worry about remembering.


Report harassment and spam while gaming online

Playing games online with friends can be a great time, but not everyone likes to follow the rules. Be sure to report harassment, whether via messages or voice chat, and mark any spam messages as well to mitigate security risks for yourself and the rest of the online community. Developers should take swift action to ban these accounts after being reported.


Turn off auto Wi-Fi connections on your devices

With automatic Wi-Fi connectivity enabled, your mobile device will connect to any known network or SSID that doesn’t require a password. You might be at risk if these Wi-Fi connections are monitored by untrusted third-parties. Set your your mobile devices to forget networks you no longer need, or just turn off Wi-Fi entirely.


Hover over a link to find out where it leads

Many articles, posts and other communications contain abundant links, some of which may lead to pages that no longer exist or, worse, are compromised. On a Mac/PC you can hover the mouse cursor over a link to see its destination. On mobile, you can hold to copy it and then paste it into a note.


When using your personal laptop for work, make sure you’re signed into your work Google account

More people are working from home, meaning they’re getting work done on their personal computers. This means that you could be switching between work and personal accounts several times a day. Make sure you are logged into your work account before uploading sensitive work-related documents to online storage, as they could accidentally be uploaded to a public or shared folder.


When purchasing a privacy screen filter, choose one with the most narrow viewing angle

Putting a privacy screen filter on your laptop or mobile device can prevent others from seeing your screen outside of a narrow viewing angle, preventing “visual hacking.” There are several privacy screen filters on the market, but you want to make sure the one you purchase has a narrow enough viewing angle that will be effective while you’re working in public. Try to choose one with a viewing angle of 60 degrees or narrower.


Overwrite data if you’re giving away your device

In many instances, deleting a file doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. It might still be recoverable by someone with the right tools. When recycling a device or giving it to someone else, use an overwrite program to ensure full deletion of personal information from the drive.


Upgrading to Windows 11? Make sure you get the update directly from Microsoft

Microsoft recently released the latest version of its quintessential operating system. The best part? Upgrading from Windows 10 is free. Just make sure you’re installing the update from the official Microsoft website to circumvent any possible security risks, like malware or viruses that could come from third party sites.