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Tips to keep your personal information safe
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and as we approach it, please consider some simple steps you can take to help protect yourself online:
- Your password is your first line of defense. Re-set your passwords often and when it comes to choosing a secure one, complicated is good. In fact, most experts suggest utilizing a passphrase – a longer sequence of words – that includes uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Here’s an example of the difference between passwords and passphrases:
Naturally, passphrases can be difficult to remember, so don’t hesitate to look into a reliable password manager app as well.
- Clear your browser history regularly. Your browser history or online activity is stored in your browser and can be vulnerable to phishing attempts. Keep in mind that a phishing (or smishing by text message) can be carried out through an authentic looking email or pop up seemingly from a real company in an attempt to lure you to a webpage or online form (such as a survey). The message will generally place some urgency on providing your personal information at a page linked to within the email or include a convenient link to a website that looks similar to a company or service you already use.
- Take steps to prevent phishing. Understand that legitimate entities like the Edvest College Savings Plan and TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc. will not request sensitive information (such as your credit card number) through non-secure methods such as email and text messages. Contact the company in question to verify the message’s authenticity. Be sure to use a phone number you know to be correct, not one provided by the email or text message. Type the actual URL of the company into your web browser. Do not use the link or address provided by the email or text message. Make sure that you’re using a secure website. Secure sites display https:// instead of http:// in your browser’s address bar and include a lock icon.
- Keep safe on public Wi-Fi networks. Try to avoid accessing personal and/or financial information on unprotected public Wi-Fi. If that's impractical for you, employ a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to secure your connection.
Basically, a VPN creates a virtual encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server operated by a VPN service. Then all your external Internet exchanges are routed through this tunnel, helping protect you from potential hackers on an unsecured public network.
- Protect all your connections. You might not know that your home computer can be hacked through your other connected devices. From baby monitors to TVs, if it's connected to your network, it's a potential way in. Be sure to change the default password when setting up a new router or network-connected device. And if you don't plan on using the Internet features of your smart appliances, disable or protect remote access when not needed.
TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc. (TFI), Plan Manager. Neither TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., nor its affiliates, are responsible for the content found on any external website links contained herein.