One in three Americans fell victim to cyber crimes last year. Be prepared with these basic tips to protect yourself against common threats.
The recent data breach at Equifax has put a renewed focus on cyber security. With one in three Americans falling victim to a computer virus, hacking incident or other cyber attack in 2016,1 now is a good time to strengthen your Internet defenses.
Often, individual cyber attacks succeed because people aren't protecting themselves against the most basic and common types of threats, such as phishing emails and malicious websites. Others fall prey to fraud because of social media missteps or they fail to notice fraud because they do not monitor their credit. With an average of one computer being hacked every 39 seconds, according to a Clark School study at the University of Maryland1, it's more important than ever to keep one step ahead of cyber criminals.
A robust password strategy is your first line of defense against hackers. Your passwords should be unique and include a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Also, avoid reusing passwords across multiple sites. Make a habit of changing passwords regularly.
To provide another layer of security, in addition to your username and password, Morgan Stanley clients can enroll in multi-factor authentication (MFA) for their Morgan Stanley Online and Morgan Stanley Mobile App. If you enable this feature, you will be prompted to register your personal device and add it to your Morgan Stanley Online profile. Anytime an unregistered device is used to log in to your account, it will require the entry of a one-time passcode that is sent to a phone number already on file with Morgan Stanley. This additional factor of authentication may help to prevent unauthorized users from being able to access your account.
Outside of password issues, two common types of threats consumers fall prey to are phishing and malicious software (“malware”).
Phishing occurs when an attacker attempts to acquire funds, steal personal information or deploy malware by sending an email which appears to originate from a legitimate source such as a financial institution, government agency or credit card provider. Some emails ask the person to click on a link embedded in the message to verify an account, password or other credentials. The link often goes to a fake website that appears legitimate, even down to the exact logos and design of legitimate sites.
Other emails ask the user to click on a file which will then download malware on the user’s computer. Often these communications will carry an unusually strong sense of urgency to panic the user and get them to act quickly without taking the time to double check if the correspondence is legitimate.
The best defense is to avoid clicking on suspicious links without confirming the identity of the sender or verifying the message with the organization mentioned in the email.
Finally, you can become infected with malware in other ways, such as clicking on unverified links in text messages, social media messages and websites. Beware of sites that ask visitors to install a new or “critical" software program to access the site, because this could be an attempt to infect your computer with malware. Bottom line: No matter what the message form, take extra caution when clicking on links.
When using social media or shopping online, be careful about sharing personal information such as your birth date, birth place, passwords, social security number, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank accounts and other financial information.
Even the most innocent request could be trying to trick you into giving away crucial data. A recent social media scam involved tricking users into revealing their age, pet’s name and model of the first car they owned. Publically posting information like this could potentially be used to try and guess passwords or additional security questions.
Even the most vigilant individual can still fall prey to cyberattacks that result in fraud. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep tabs on your accounts to look for signs of identity theft or unauthorized purchases. You can talk to your Financial Advisor about linking your accounts at other financial institutions to your Morgan Stanley account so you can access a complete view of your finances all in one place.
Another useful tool is the Morgan Stanley Cash Management Alerts Service which will alert you to certain transactions on your Morgan Stanley Debit Card. The service can alert you if any debit card purchase is over a set amount, if the card isn’t present at a purchase, or if a purchase is made outside of the U.S.
Morgan Stanley clients enrolled in the Premier Cash Management2 program enjoy Premier Protection provided by Experian, which includes monthly Experian summaries, and three-bureau credit reports and credit score updates, as well as credit score trending reports, identity theft insurance,3 monitoring for use of your social security number on the Internet, and lost wallet/card replacement. It also offers real time credit monitoring and will send you alerts of any changes to your credit or your address information.
Morgan Stanley is committed to helping clients stay secure. For more information, talk to your Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor today to learn more about the services we provide to help protect your identity and personal information.