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Five healthy cyber habits to practice in 2023

As we develop new habits for 2023, it’s important to analyze old patterns to determine where we can improve. In addition to physical, financial and social resolutions, taking charge of cyber habits can create online protection.

According to Comcast’s Xfinity Cyber Health Report, 78% of Americans engage in risky online behaviors, leaving them vulnerable to cyber threats. Many share or reuse passwords and ignore software updates, giving criminals opportunities to hack information. 

  “Just as it’s important to care for our physical health, it’s important for us to maintain our cyber health,” said Kevin Taylor, Comcast cybersecurity fellow. “As we see in the Comcast Cyber Health report, cyber criminals are busy trying to access consumers’ information and networks. A good cyber health plan includes good passwords, multi-factor authentication, and caution when clicking links and visiting websites.”   

  Simple practices can protect you, your family and business from potential scams and security breaches. 

  1. Beef up your passwords. According to the report, 56% of Americans reuse passwords across platforms. Also, 18% used preset passwords for a new device instead of creating one during setup. While having a few password variations makes it easier to log in to accounts, it leaves you open to network and device breaches. 

Use strong, unique passwords. Avoid using generic passwords and don’t use passwords that include personal information that hackers can guess by searching social media. For example, don't include your name, pet's name, birth date, favorite sports team or the city where you were born in your passwords. 

The strongest passwords are long and use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Passphrases (passwords made up of phrases or sentences) enhance password security. Change passwords regularly so compromised credentials are useless to scammers. 

 2. Use multi-factor authentication. Many accounts and devices use multi-factor authentication, requiring you to confirm your identity using two or three different factors. Typically, MFA will ask you something you know (a challenge question), something you have (a time-sensitive code sent to your phone or email) or something physical (fingerprint or facial recognition). Enabling MFA adds a layer of protection that makes it harder for bad actors to invade your digital life. 

 3. Keep your devices up to date. Do you dread the “system update required” message? It seems to come at the worst possible time, like during a work assignment, helping kids with online schoolwork or paying bills. 

Don't ignore these notifications. Firmware and system updates often include new security features that are essential for device and network security. An easy way to protect devices is to enable the auto-update setting. By allowing devices to update automatically, you can always have the latest security updates and firmware running. 

4. Review your connected devices. On average, Xfinity households have 15 connected devices, with power users averaging as many as 35. Often, someone bought a new device, connected it to the home network and neglected to disconnect the old ones. However, just because you're not using older devices doesn't mean there isn’t a security threat. 

To secure your home network and accounts, take inventory of all your devices. Use your internet provider's apps and tools to check which devices are currently connected in your home. Find the devices you no longer use and erase personal information before recycling.

5. Read up on phishing. Get educated on common phishing tactics to protect yourself from scams. According to the Xfinity report, only 39% of respondents said they could confidently explain what phishing is. Not understanding phishing means it’s unlikely you can protect your household. Many cybercriminals impersonate a friend, family member or organization, like banks or schools, to get you to divulge sensitive information. 

Phishing emails can be convincing, but telltale signs of phishing include spelling errors in the subject line or email body, suspicious links or attachments, tones of misplaced urgency, unfamiliar senders or slightly misspelled company names in the sender's email address. If you have doubts, reach out to the family, friend or organization the email is from to inquire about its legitimacy. 

Using these five tips will safeguard your devices and digital information in 2023 and beyond. λ