Twenty years ago, the phrase “cyber attack” probably wasn’t on anyone’s radar as something the everyday American should have to worry about. However, times have changed, and we have to be aware of the fact that crimes like identity theft are growing in number every day. Not to mention, a cyber attack on our nation’s banking system or the Federal Reserve could send commerce in to a tailspin. It is prudent and timely to be ready for this type of event, if it were to occur. Here are some things you can do to protect your family from cyber attacks.
Protect Yourself Financially
If you make online purchases or use a debit card, it’s always a good idea to make sure your purchases line up with your checkbook. Relying on the online register only is never a good idea, because it’s not always up to date or accurate. Also, only shop from secure sites that are retailers you know and trust. If you aren’t familiar with an online retailer, use a service like PayPal to send money or make payments. Your purchase is protected, and so is the seller. It’s a win-win for both parties. Another important thing to remember is to never give anyone access to your bank account or debit card that doesn’t need it.
Make sure your PIN numbers or passwords aren’t easily recognizable. Choose something only you would know, and don’t share it! When you can, use cash to make payments at brick and mortar stores, as sometimes a paper trail can make it easier to digitally steal your identity. You should also make it a practice to have some emergency cash stored somewhere safe in your home. If the electricity is down for a time, or bank systems are hacked, you will still have means to purchase the things you need. It’s not a bad idea to stick some emergency cash in your vehicle as well. Even if your bank site goes down, bills still have to be paid. Be sure to have extra checks, envelopes, and stamps on hand, because you may find yourself mailing those bills or paying them in person, rather than auto-drafting them from your bank account!
Protect the Info Stored in Your Electronic Devices
Some people carry their whole life in their phone. Phone numbers, all their photos, email, and lots of personal information are stored in there, and if it gets lost… well, no wonder people are really upset by that! Same thing with personal computers and tablets, lots of personal information in a small package that if stolen or hacked, could be disastrous. One of the first things you can do is back up your digital documents, files, and photos regularly to an external hard drive or a USB flash drive. Try do to this once a month at least.
You should also have a hard copy (written down on paper) of all your phone contacts. Most of us depend on our phone storage, and don’t really have any phone numbers memorized. You should also have printed copies of digital photos. Memory cards can get lost, computers can crash or be stolen, and if you have no backup copies, you have no way to replace them. It’s also important to teach your kids not to share info with anyone they don’t know via cell phone, text, or email. Kids need to know internet safety and how to interact safely with others via social media as to not give out too much info. If you have a smart TV at home, be aware it could be another way hackers could get into your home and life.
Physical Ways to Withstand a Cyber Attack
We know that being smart financially and online can help you to weather a cyber attack, but think about all the other ways your life would be affected. With no banking system, you would be dependent on cash for all transactions. Many people don’t carry or keep cash on hand. This could be disastrous for stores and consumers alike. One thing you can do is have a good emergency food supply at home, one to last your family at least a couple of weeks. You might also consider stockpiling things like diapers and personal care items that you go through a lot of, like toilet paper or paper towels. If the stores aren’t open, you aren’t going to be able to buy them.
You should have a radio at home to be able to keep up with news and information, as in this situation, the internet may not be reliable. Find alternate routes to travel your area should the subway system or traffic system be affected. It is also not a bad idea to have alternate heat source, like a wood stove, or portable heater, and even a generator to use if the power grid goes out. You just never know, and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
These are just some of the practical steps you can take to protect your home and family from a cyber attack. Even small steps can make a huge difference!