Experts offer practical advice for holiday shoppers. In essence, there’s a lot you can do to become harder targets for cyber criminals,

including:

  • Consider freezing your credit. You don’t need it open unless you open a new credit card or loan, and even then you can unfreeze it for a short window to allow for the credit check.
  • Install antivirus and antispyware software, use auto-update, and always enable multifactor authentication on all of your accounts.
  • Keep all software up to date — especially Windows, but also programs like Adobe Reader, Flash and Java, which are often convenient backdoors that can be closed through frequent updates.
  • Use strong passwords of at least 14 characters, keep them secret, and change them often. Consider starting with a favorite sentence, and then just take the first letter of each word. Add numbers, punctuation or symbols for complexity. And be sure to change any default passwords on your new smart devices.
  • Never turn off your firewall; it’s an important software program that helps stop viruses and worms.
  • Use flash drives cautiously; they are easily infected. In fact, one of the biggest breaches of U.S. military systems to date was due to a flash drive.
  • Encrypt sensitive information on your computer.
  • Be conscious of what you click on, both in emails and on the web. When in doubt, double check before accessing new files.
  • Look for sites with “https” in the URL. Do not use banks or other sensitive websites that do not have the “s.”

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