Every 39 seconds there is a cyber attack. 93% of these breaches could have been prevented.

Protecting yourself online

8 tips to protect your identity

  1. Don't share your secrets. If someone contacts you asking for your social security number or any account information (including bank account), do not give it to them. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. For passwords, use a combination of letters and numbers (or create a passphrase) -- make sure you are changing them periodically. Do not reveal any personal information on social networking sites, as this could lead someone to crack your password.
  2. Shred personal/important documents once you no longer need them. Shred receipts, unused credit card offers, bank statements, and personal identification that has expired before throwing them away.
  3. Keep an eye out for missing mail. If you are expecting something in the mail and it never comes, this should raise a red flag. Fraudsters look for monthly bank statements, credit card statements, or other mail that contains your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the chances of any paper statements being stolen. It is also important to NEVER mail bills from your own mailbox.
  4. Use online and mobile banking to protect your accounts. With online and mobile banking, you are able to monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. For an extra layer of percaution, sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions more than $500. You may also opt in to receiving alerts whenever your card is run. Make sure you report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.
  5. Monitor your credit report. You can order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of several credit reporting agencies.
  6. Protect your computer. Make sure that your anti-virus software is active and up to date. Also, look for an "s" after the "http" to be sure the website you're visiting is secure.
  7. Protect your mobile device. To best protect your device, set up a passcode. Most smartphones now have facial recognition software, making it more difficult for a thief to get into a stolen/lost phone. Before you sell/donate/trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using the manufacturer's recommended technique. If your phone is lost or stolen, you may be able to wipe it remotely. When you're downloading apps, make sure it is secure. Some apps may contain malware.
  8. Sign up for an identity defense service. Norton LifeLock is designed to help secure, monitor, and restore your personally identifiable information.

10 ways to secure your mobile device

  1. Use the passcode lock. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your info if your device is lost or stolen.
  2. When you finish a mobile banking session, log out completely. Most mobile banking apps will do this automatically, but it is best to stay on the safe side.
  3. Protect your phone from viruses and malware. There is specific software you can download on your phone.
  4. Exercise caution when downloading apps. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary permissions.
  5. Keep your phone updated -- app updates and software updates.
  6. Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or a social security number on your cellphone. Some mobile devices contain a section in the settings that stores all passwords and is protected by facial recognition -- be wary of what passwords you store here.
  7. Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or your mobile device is lost/stolen.
  8. Be aware of shoulder surfers. If you are punching in sensitive information, make sure no one is watching. This is the most basic form of information theft.
  9. Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and checks. If the link looks suspicious, copy it and put it into the URL checker under the "Resources" tab on this website. Also, be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.
  10. Don't bank on public/open Wi-Fi. Public connections aren't very secure, so it is best to not perform banking transactions on these networks. If you absolutely need to access your account, switch to your mobile network.

7 tips for protecting yourself online

  1. Keep your software up to date. Turn on automatic system updates for your device, make sure your desktop web browser uses automatic security updates, and keep your web browser plugins like Flash, Java, etc. updated. When updating browser plugins, make sure it isn't a scam. These scams typically infect your computer with malware.
  2. Use anti-virus protection and firewall. Anti-virus protection software has been the most prevalent solution to fight malicious attacks. AV software blocks malware and other malicious viruses from entering your device and compromising your data. Using a firewall helps screen out hackers, viruses, and other malicious activity that occurs over the Internet. Firewalls determine what traffic is allowed to enter your device.
  3. Use two-factor or multi-factor authentication. These authentication measures add additional layers of security to the standard password method of online identification.
  4. Make yourself aware of phishing scams - be very suspicious of emails, phone calls, and social media messages. In a phishing scheme attempt, the attacker poses as someone or something to trick the recipient into divulging credentials, clicking a malicious link, or opening an attachment that infects the user's computer system with malware. 90% of ransomware attacks originate from phishing attempts. Here are some tips to consider: don't open email from people you don't know; know which links are safe and which are not; be suspicious of any emails sent to you; malicious links can come from friends who have been infected
  5. Protect your sensitive personal identifiable information (PII). PII is any information that can be used by a cybercriminal to identify or locate an individual. It includes name, address, phone numbers, date of birth, SSN, IP address, etc. Consider reviewing your privacy settings across all social media accounts.
  6. Backup your data regularly. If you become a victim of ransomware or malware, the only way to restore data is to wipe your systems a restore to the most recent backup.
  7. Read the website's privacy policies. If you don't see or understand a site's privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

4 tips for creating secure passwords

  1. If you have a commonly used password, change it immediately. The top 25 most commonly used passwords are listed below.
  2. Use passwords with eight characters or more with mixed characters. It only takes seconds to crack an eight-character password. One way to create a more secure password is to use short words separated by characters. For example, 3_ball!8
  3. Avoid usign the same password for multiple websites. If you use the same password, it makes it that much easier for a hacker to hack all of your accounts.
  4. Don't write down your passwords. It may be difficult to remember all of your passwords, but you should avoid writing them down at all costs. If you think you may not remember them, you may want to consider locking them in a safe or a safe place.
Top 25 Most Used Passwords: 1. 123456 2. Password 3. 12345678 4. qwerty 5. 12345 6. 123456789 7. letmein 8. 1234567 9. football 10. iloveyou 11. admin 12. welcome 13. monkey 14. login 15. abc123 16. starwars 17. 123123 18. dragon 19. passw0rd 20. master 21. hello 22. freedom 23. whatever 24. qazwsx 25. trustno1 This list is composed annually by SplashData and is compiled from files containing millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers.

4 tips to avoid "smishing" scams

What exactly is "smishing?" "Smishing" is phishing through SMS. An example of a text you made receive is: "Alert: your account for XYZ company has been suspended. Call 888-888-8888 immediately to reactivate or your account will be permanently closed." This text may appear to come from a legitimate source. In addition to this example, a smishing message may tell you that your credit card has been used to make a suspicious purchase or your account has been compromised as a part of a national security breach. When you respond to these messages, you will receive a call that asks you to provide some sort of personal information (credit card number, social security number, PIN, your mother's maiden name, etc.). Here's how to avoid smishing:

  1. Do not reply to the text message. Instead, contact the company directly if there is any question regarding your accounts. The IRS will never text you and ask you for personal information -- they already have it.
  2. Do not follow any website links provided in the text.
  3. Look for suspicious features of the message. If the message has a sense of urgency about responding, it is more than likely a scam.
  4. If it appears "too good to be true," it probably is! Be wary of any text that claims you have won a prize. Nine times out of 10, these are smishing scams.

How long does it take to crack a password? See the chart below.

Number of characters



Upper or lower case letters

Upper or lower case letters mixed

Numbers, upper and lower case letters

Numbers, upper and lower case letters, symbols







4 secs

40 secs

6 mins

1 hour

11 hours

4 days

46 days

1 year

12 years

126 years






13 mins

6 hours

6 days

169 days

12 years

314 years

8k years

212k years

512m years

143m years

3bn years




















8 secs

5 mins

3 hours

4 days

169 days

16 years

600 years

21k years

778k years

28m years

1bn years

36bn years

1tn years



3 secs

3 mins

3 hours

10 days

1 year

106 years

6k years

108k years

25m years

1bn years

97bn years

6tn years

374tn years

23qd years



10 secs

13 mins

17 hours

57 days

12 years

928 years

71k years

5m years

423m years

5bn years

2tn years

193tn years

14qd years

1qt years


k - thousand (1,000)

m - million (1,000,000)

bn - billion (1,000,000,000)

tn - trillion (1,000,000,000,000)

qd - quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000)

qt - quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000)

The Senior's Guide to Online Safety
Cybersecurity tips for older adults
Senior Couple
If you did not grow up surrounded by technology, learning the ins and outs can be a difficult road to navigate. See Know Your Net's tips below for how to practice digital citizenship and keep yourself safe online. Click the arrow on each topic to view the enclosed tips.

Tips to become a cyber-senior

Tips to protect your personal information

  • Use strong and unique passwords. It is important to never share your passwords with anyone, unless you have designated someone (like your child) to manage your online accounts. When you give someone your password, you run the risk of them trying to impersonate you. They can often trick your friends and family into "helping you out" by sending you money -- this money will never come to you, it will go straight to them.
  • Make sure your passwords are long and complex. Passwords should be at least eight characters and should be a combination of upper/lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. A basic 8 character password can take seconds to crack, whereas a complex 8 character password can take up to 57 days to crack.
  • Make sure your privacy settings are set up to ensure the maximum amount of privacy. Facebook and other social networking sites you may be on contain extensive controls to protect your privacy. You can limit posts so only your friends see them, or you can make your posts public. There are also privacy settings for smartphones that can restrict who has access to your private data (location, contacts, etc.)
  • Think before you post! Whatever you post is a direct reflection on you. If you don't want to be associated with what you're posting, you shouldn't post it. Also, before posting anything you've seen shared on social media, fact check it using to make sure it is correct information.
  • You will oftentimes get "spam" or other emails you were not expecting. Dealing with this can be difficult. Receiving these messages isn't necessarily dangerous, but opening it and clicking on links within the email can infect your computer with malware (malicious software that puts viruses on your computer that can be used to hack your accounts).
  • If you are getting abusive messages online, make sure you report it. Sometimes, you can get messages on social media or in an email that are threatening, mean, angry, or accusatory -- basically, if the message/email upsets you, it is considered abusive.

Different types of scams and how to avoid them

​​​​​​Fraudsters use the Internet to scam unassuming consumers. If something sounds too good to be true (you won money, a car, an iPhone, etc.), it probably is. Here are common scams:

  1. "You owe money" scam. If you get an email from a "bill collector" or the "government" or "IRS" saying that you or a family member owes money, don't respond. It is a very common and successful scam. This scam may seem scary, but understand that if you owe money, you will typically be contacted by mail (paper mail, NOT email).
  2. "Personal emergency" scam. You may receive an email or message on social media that appears to be from someone you know. Their message says that they are in distress -- they may say their wallet has been stolen or they have been arrested and need bail money. If you get a message like this, always call the person who is sending you the message to make sure it is legitimate. If you get this message from a friend, there is a very good chance their account has been compromised by a hacker trying to scam people on their friends list.
  3. Online dating scams. It is possible to find love via online dating apps, but you must exercise extreme caution. Many people have been scammed out of money because of online con artists. If your online "romantic partner" begins asking for money from you, there is a good chance they are scamming you.
  4. "Your computer is infected" scam. You might get a call from "Microsoft" or "Apple" claiming that your computer is infected or vulnerable to hacking. They say will offer to fix it for you. If you get this call, immediately hang up. Reputable companies like this will never make these calls -- these are criminals trying to steal your money and/or infect your computer with malware. Also, be suspicious of pop-ups on your computer that claim your computer has been infected. If you get one of these messages, close out of the browser. If you cannot do this, restart your computer completely. If you believe your computer is actually at risk, it is best to contact an expert.
If you are victimized by a scammer, never hesitate to reach out for help. Report it to a trusted friend, family member, or caregiver. If it is appropriate, you may also need to contact law enforcement. It is not your fault if something bad happens to you.

Online dating safety tips

Many people successfully meet their romantic partners online, but it can sometimes put you in a dangerous situation. Here are some tips to stay safe while seeing out relationships online

  • Make sure you meet in a public place the first couple of times. It is best to meet at places like restaurants, movie theaters, public parks, etc. Always let a friend, family member, or caregiver know where you are going and when they can expect you to return.
  • Be aware that there are people who want to scam you via online dating websites. There is always the possibility that the person you are talking to online is not who they actually are (this is called "catfishing"). They may often ask for money or favors from you.
  • Watch for red flags. If a person looks a lot younger than you or looks like a model in their photos, they are probably not who they say they are. Other red flags include:
    • They claim they are in the U.S. traveling or working
    • They are pressuring you to leave the dating site to communicate over email or text message
    • Someone who quickly professes their "love" for you
    • They don't want to talk on the phone or video chat with you OR they say they want to talk to you but always make up an excuse as to why they can't
  • Look for errors in how they write. If the person you are communicating with makes many grammatical and/or spelling errors, this could be a sign they are in a foreign country and are never actually intending on meeting you
  • Don't ever send money. If the person asks for money, this is the biggest red flag. They will make up any excuse to get you to send money: they want the money to buy a plane ticket to come see you, their house is being foreclosed, they are in deep financial distress, they are having a family crisis, etc.
If something seems fishy, follow your gut and cut off communication. If you suspect malicious behavior from your online love interest, tell a trusted family member, friend, or caregiver.

Tips for sharing your personal views on social media

Social media is a great tool to share and express your views on a multitude of subjects. This can lead to spirited debates -- sometimes too spirited, especially when politics are involved. Here are some tips to share your viewpoints in a healthy and respectful manner.

  • Know your facts. Some things are simply outlandish and untrue. You may see something posted on social media that aligns with your views and you would like to share it, but ALWAYS check to see if the information is true. Sometimes, posts are created to smear a public official, celebrity, or political candidate -- sometimes, they are just mistakes. Think before you post... it is never good to spread misinformation, no matter how much you want to believe it is true.
  • Keep it civil. When everyone is sharing their viewpoints, you will inevitabley run into some differing opinions. If you do and want to comment on the post, it is best to engage in civil debate and refrain calling that person names or making snarky, rude remarks. If someone is mean to you or others, it is best to just move on (even though it may be difficult). When you express your opinions, it is important to understand that there will always be someone who disagrees with you -- some people may not be so nice when they are disagreeing with you.

Tips to stay safe while shopping online

  1. Only shop at reputable online merchants. If you have not heard of the store, be wary of shopping on their website. While many are legitimate, many are not and will try to steal your financial information or will simply fail to deliver your order. If it doesn't seem legit, research the store on and see what other people have said.
  2. When shopping or banking, search for secure websites. If the "https" in the browser's address bar is missing the "s" and is just "http," the website is not secure. If you are shopping or banking on a mobile app, make sure it is that company's official app. Always be sure to check the reviews before you download the app.
  3. Use credit cards when purchasing online. Never send cash, cashier's checks, or money orders. Even sending a personal check can be dangerous. Typically, reputable online shops will only take credit card, debit card, Paypal, or a provider like Paypal. If there is a dispute, the credit card company will stop the charge and refund your money while they investigate. Services like Paypal, Android Pay, Apple Pay, and Venmo have some protections, but it is best to use a debit or credit card.
  4. Check before you click. There are certain purchases you may not be able to undo, such as booking a flight or hotel room. If you mistakenly purchased a service or an item, call the company immediately to cancel your order. Before you purchase anything online, make sure you are aware of the company's return policy.
  5. Do your research before donating online to a charity. Before you donate, be sure to read the fine print and do some research on the person/organization you are donating to. If they are raising money for a specific cause, always check to make sure the cause is legitimate. If you're not familiar with the organization, use to find out a little more.

Basic security tips

  • Learn how to fully utilize your smartphone. Your phone can track your location and reveal sensitive information about you. Only download reputable apps and always password protect your phone. If your phone is lost or stolen, there are ways to remotely wipe your information. This should be done immediately. Contact your carrier for more information.
  • Protect all of your devices. Make sure your computer and smartphone are password protected. For your computer, make sure you have security and firewall software in place. If you need help with this, reach out to friends or family.
  • Secure your Internet router. If you have Wi-Fi in your house, you have an Internet router. Sometimes, that device will have a password and username that are easy to guess. It may be best to contact an expert or your Internet service provider for advice on how to change this information.
  • You should never be ashamed to reach out for help. Senior centers, schools, and some religious/community groups offer classes on how to safely utilize technology. These classes are either free or low-cost. The Apple and Microsoft stores also offer free advice on products they support, and you can always reach out to your local electronics store to see if they have anyone who can help you.
  • Don't feel pressured to buy things you don't need. Legitimate services (Internet providers, cable providers, etc.) will often try to talk you into buying a product you don't need. When purchasing a cell phone or Internet plan, think about your needs and express them to the salesperson. While your service is running, make sure you are periodically checking it to make sure you are using what you paid for. If you aren't using all of the data or service, you may be able to save money by downgrading your plan.

Cybersecurity in the digital age

In this cyber-age, it is more important than ever to secure our devices and online profiles. A minor security breach could put your livelihood at risk. See the tips below to learn how to stay safe and secure online.

If you have reason to believe your computer is infected, click "learn more" to be redirected to Here, they will walk you through how to properly scan your computer for malware.

Do you know your net? Click "Take Quiz Now" if you think you're ready to test your #NetKnowledge!