The holidays are almost upon us – so be cyber smart!

CISA Be Cyber Smart, ImageQuest

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the rest of holiday shopping on the horizon, we thought we’d share some reminders and tips to keep your personal and business accounts safe. Slick crooks and rogue nation hackers will be trolling the Internet for easy marks.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security knows this as well. We suggest you take a few moments to visit their latest webpage full of facts and tips on keeping your personal information secure.

Here are a few basic tips that we recommend:

1. Make sure your anti-virus and other security programs are up to date before you plunge into holiday shopping. In fact, if you have updates pending in either your operating system OR your security programs, run them now.

If you are using a free or trial version of a security program, stop right now and pay for a subscription. Several of the top-recommended security software brands have first-year pricing of $20 – $30.

Annoyed that these updates and new security programs tie up your computer for some time? Do it while you binge-watch your favorite holiday show or football team. Consider it multi-tasking.

2. if you haven’t already, subscribe to a paid password management program. Once you get them set up, they’re worth the annual subscription in the amount of your time you don’t have to spend trying to remember or looking up your passwords.

You can find reviews on credible security and password management programs at places such as PCMag, CNet, TechRadar and others.

3. Download and use an authenticator app. These are free from Google and Microsoft. These apps give you instantly available codes – you don’t have to wait for the texted code to show up.

4. Use a web browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Opera or the new Microsoft Edge. Many of these can block fraudulent sites (make sure that option is selected in settings) and save you a ton of grief. Some also offer enhanced privacy features such as ad blockers and tracking blockers. Again, you’ll need to check the browsers’ settings.

The DHS site we noted above says 1 in 3 homes have computers infected with malicious software. Prevent your home from being part of that negative statistic this holiday season.

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