Whether it’s strengthening your passwords or treating emails from unknown senders with more caution, you can take a number of steps to reduce the threat of identity theft, online scams, malware, fraud and more.
In 2019 alone, more than 109 million Americans were affected by cybercrime.1 With as much as $600 billion lost annually due to cybercrime,2 it is more important than ever to protect your personal information and internet privacy.
Here’s a personal cybersecurity checklist of some suggested safeguards.
- Keep your software, operating system and browser up to date. Software companies continuously add security updates along with every upgrade they release. Installing updates as soon as they are available can help you better inoculate your devices against malicious software, known as malware.
- Run a reputable, antivirus product on your home PC or laptop. This will help prevent your device from becoming infected with malware and may clean up an existing infection.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi hotspots—like the ones at coffee shops, airports, hotels, etc. If you do use a public Wi-Fi hotspot, be sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so that others cannot intercept your communications. As an alternative, stick to the mobile network and create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot with your phone.
- Don’t use publicly available charging cords or USB ports to charge your devices. Publicly available power outlets are generally fine, but avoid using publicly available cords or ports. These can be used to deliver malware onto your phone or to silently steal data off of your phone.
- Daily Online ActivitiesBe cautious about sharing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) over the phone, in email or via text message—especially if you did not initiate the contact.
- Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages. Doing so may install malware on your device.
- Don’t reuse the same username and password across multiple websites and applications. If you reuse the same username and password and hackers gain access to one of your accounts, they may be able to access your other accounts and commit fraud.
- Consider using a password manager. These apps create unique, complex passwords for you and then store those passwords in a cryptographically sound way.
- Set up Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to log in to any website or application you use for financial transactions or that contain your personal data. MFA is essentially another way—beyond your username and password—to help verify your identity and further safeguard your information. See Morgan Stanley’s MFA options .
- Create and save bookmarks for the important banking and brokerage websites that you visit often to avoid inadvertently entering your credentials on a fraudulent site, and exposing yourself to identity theft.
- Only download applications from Google Play™ or the App Store® and never from a third-party app store. Third-party app stores, or apps that pop up and encourage you to download them, are much more likely to contain malware.
- Only give applications the permissions they really need. Granting an application access to your photos, location, camera, contacts, etc., makes your data and information available to the application owner and can undermine your internet privacy.
- Limit how much information you share on social media and lock down the privacy settings on your social media accounts. The information you share online could be exploited to gather information for fraud schemes.
- Verify that you are using a current and reliable email provider that has basic, built-in security features. Using an older email account that has not incorporated security protections will greatly increase your likelihood of getting malware.
- Monitor your existing lines of credit for fraudulent activity by leveraging a reputable credit and identity theft monitoring service. Additionally, consider freezing your credit to prevent fraudsters from using your identity to establish new lines of credit. Learn more about Morgan Stanley’s identity and credit protection offering with Experian®.
- Consider using a standalone device just for banking or investment activities. Physically bifurcating your devices this way can help you better protect yourself.
- Secure your home Wi-Fi network by changing the router’s factory-default password and username. Don’t allow guests access to the network used by your home’s “smart” devices, and remember that the microphone is always listening on a voice-activated device.
At Morgan Stanley, safeguarding your assets and personal information is a top priority, but you have a vital role to play. Following the above rules of thumb to improve your personal cybersecurity can help you avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.