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 12 million Americans were the victims of identity theft1. With as much as $600 billion lost annually due to cybercrime2, it’s more important than ever to protect your personal information and assets.
Here’s a cybersecurity checklist to help you get started.
- Keep your software, operating system and browser up to date. Software companies continuously include security fixes 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.
- 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 more likely to contain malware.
- Don’t reuse the same or similar passwords across multiple websites and applications. When you do, if a hacker compromises one of your accounts, all of your other accounts using that same password could be vulnerable.
- Consider using a password manager, which will create unique, lengthy and complex passwords for you and then store them in an encrypted state.
- Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to log in to any website or application you use for financial transactions or that has access to your personal data. MFA is essentially another factor—beyond your username and password—used to verify your identity and protect access to your account. Learn more about Morgan Stanley’s MFA options.
- Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages. Doing so may install malware on your device.
- Be cautious about sharing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) over the phone, in email or via text message, especially if you did not initiate the contact.
- Limit how much information you share on social media and lock down the privacy settings on your accounts. The information you share online could be exploited by fraudsters.
- 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.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi hotspots—like the ones at coffee shops, airports, hotels, etc. Instead, stick to the mobile network and create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot with your phone. If you do use public Wi-Fi, be sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so that others can’t intercept your communications.
- Don’t use publicly available charging cords or USB ports with your devices. These can be used to deliver malware onto your device or steal your data. Always be sure to plug your cord directly into the power source.
- Create and save bookmarks for the important banking and brokerage websites you visit often to avoid inadvertently entering your credentials on a fraudulent site.
- Ensure you’re using a reliable email provider that has built-in security features such as MFA and strong spam blocking. Using an older email account that has not incorporated modern security protections may 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. Ask your financial advisor about Morgan Stanley’s identity and credit protection offering with Experian® through our CashPlus program.
- Secure your home Wi-Fi by changing the router’s default password and username. Create a separate Wi-Fi network for your guests and make sure it’s not connected to your home’s “smart” devices.
- Consider using a standalone device just for banking or investment activities. Physically separating your devices can help you better protect your high-consequence activities from cyber-enabled fraud.
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.