Why You Need to Protect Personal Information Online, Plus 6 Ways To Start

As the number of data breaches and cyber attacks grows exponentially every year, learning how to protect personal information online has become crucial to all of us. Unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward as it may seem: hackers keep getting smarter and their tactics more polished. It takes an educated eye to spot a scam!

As common as cyber attacks may be, we are not entirely helpless against them. In this post, we’ll explore why and how you need to protect your data online, the most common types of cyber attacks, and the steps you can take to protect yourself from harm. Let’s get learning!

protect personal information online

Why You Need to Protect Personal Information Online 

Everybody should take some steps to protect personal information online. Cybersecurity statistics show that a new cyber attack occurs every 39 seconds. The consequences can be harrowing: identity theft, extortion, public humiliation, and the sale of your personal data on the “dark web”. You can check if you’ve been hacked or if your passwords have been leaked on Have I Been Pwned.

Hackers can also access automated smart home devices through smartphones and computers. That means they get access to your personal security cameras, locks, and appliances. The amount of power hackers have over their victims is daunting, so it’s crucial we learn how to recognize a cyber attack and react accordingly to it.

protect personal information online from hackers

What are Common Cyber Security Concerns

Cyber attacks don’t just happen on their own. In fact, 98% of cyber attacks rely on social engineering – psychological manipulation of users to get them to perform a specific task. For example, security hackers trick users into accidentally giving away personal information online, such as passwords and credit card information. 

These are the most common social engineering tricks:

  • 80% of all social engineering attacks consist of phishing. Phishing emails or texts typically create a sense of urgency, such as saying that the user’s safety has been compromised and that they need to protect their personal information online by resetting their password or clicking on a link in the email.
  • Similarly, pretexting relies on impersonating people or authority figures that the user knows or trusts, such as friends, co-workers, or the government. Again, victims are far more likely to react to these types of attacks as they assume that the email came from a trusted source. 
  • Scareware also relies on the user’s panicked reaction to a message, in this case in the form of an alarming pop-up. For example, the message may inform users that their computer is infected by malware and prompts them to download a rogue antivirus program. However, the program is, in fact, scareware, not antivirus software. 

How You Can Protect Personal Information Online

Luckily, there are many steps users can take to protect their personal information online. Here are five actionable steps that should protect you from cyber-attacks.

1. Create Strong Passwords 

Creating a strong password is the first actionable step you can take to protect your data online. Do not use personal information, such as names and birthdays, or predictable sequences like ‘123’. Instead, be as random as possible and use a mix of letters, numbers, uppercase letters, and symbols. And remember – no matter how convenient it is, you should steer clear of using the same password on various websites and services. 

Use a password manager to keep track of your strong passwords and ensure they stay safe. LastPass can help you create stronger passwords and alerts you if your personal information is compromised. 

2. Use 2-Factor Authentication When Possible

Multi-factor identification is one of the best ways to protect your privacy online. The most common type is 2-factor authentication (2FA). Aside from your password, you need to confirm your identity with another step, such as codes and fingerprints. Codes are provided through text-based services or apps, such as Google Authenticator. 

2FA is easy to set up, and it goes a long way in protecting personal information online. You can add this step to social media profiles, productivity apps, online banks, emails, and password managers.

3. Be Mindful of What You Share on Social Media

As much as we like to share snippets of our private lives with our friends on social media, it’s important to remember that your posts and photos might not stay private once they’re published. Instagram and Snapchat are the most likely to get hacked, so be prudent about your social media activity. Keep your profiles private, and do not share any photos that identify your address or other important personal information.

Many mobile apps ask users for various permissions, including location and access to contacts and photos. Disable as many permissions as possible. That way, if your profile gets hacked, hackers cannot access your gallery and location history.

4. Avoid Using Free Public Wi-Fi & Hotspots

Think twice before using free public Wi-Fi. There’s no way of knowing whether the network uses encryption or not. Networks that are not secured are far more likely to get hacked, giving hackers access to the devices connected to the network. At the very least, you should avoid using public Wi-Fi for online shopping or when sharing private information.

Do not connect to a network you don’t know, either. If you intend to use public Wi-Fi in a coffee shop, for example, have the staff confirm that this truly is their network. Hackers can use these hotspots to pose as free Wi-Fi networks, also known as honeypots. Once you log on, hackers will get access to all your files on the computer and browsing history and passwords. 

5. Think Before You React

Since most social engineering attacks rely on people’s panicked reactions, it’s important to remember to stay calm in case you receive an alarming message. Think before you act. If you receive an alarming message, make sure to check the sender before you click on any links or share any personal information.

Be suspicious of unsolicited emails that give off a sense of urgency. If you cannot tell whether the email from a specific company or person is real or fake, call them directly to confirm. When you identify a phishing email, report it, and delete it immediately.

protect personal information online cyber security

Conclusion with Key Takeaways 

Considering how common cyber-attacks are, you must take extra steps to protect your data online. Most attacks rely on social engineering tactics, such as phishing, pretexting, and scareware. 

Protect personal information online by following these five rules:

  • Create a strong password and use a password manager,
  • Use 2-factor identification for your apps and services,
  • Be mindful of what you post on social media,
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi and unknown hotspots,
  • Think before you react when you receive emails that give off a sense of urgency.

Which cyber security steps have you taken to ensure your safety online? Comment below and share!

How to Share Memories Online (While Still Keeping Your Kids Safe)

From birthdays and milestones to silly selfies on an ordinary Tuesday, parents have tons of opportunities to share aww-worthy moments online. But does sharing photos with family and friends on the internet put your family’s security at risk? It doesn’t have to!

Check out these tips for sharing those special moments with your loved ones while still keeping your kids safe.

Use the security features

Popular social networks Facebook and Instagram allow users to hide their photos and posts from anyone not on their friends list. As you’re using these platforms to share memories with loved ones near and far, use the security settings to control who sees them — and comb through your friends list to make sure you actually know everyone in your digital circle. Still not sure about hitting that post button? Check out the group messaging features on either platform to share your photos and videos with just a few close loved ones.

Share privately with smaller groups

Did you know there are entire social networking platforms built with your privacy in mind? Apps like Cluster and 23Snaps make it easy to share your photos with a tight and controlled group of people — so Aunt May gets the video of baby’s first steps, but that Facebook friend you haven’t talked to since 7th grade does not. Added bonus: Both of these apps also make it easy to get pictures off your phone and into your hands with the option to create and print simple family albums!

Skip the geotags

It may seem obvious to say you shouldn’t share too much of your child’s identifying info online, but the geotagging features on some social media sites make it easy to do just that without a second thought. For example, geotagging photos from your child’s birthday party can immediately reveal your child’s name, birthdate and location to the general public. If you do decide to share photos publicly, consider skipping the geotags to keep your child safe from those who could otherwise use that identifying information to open unwanted accounts in their name.

Think long-term

It’s tempting to share all the memorable moments you get to enjoy with your little one, even if it’s just to have a record for your own sake down the road! But if you’re posting publicly, consider whether your kids would want those posts popping up when they’re starting to date, apply to colleges or search for jobs. Share happy family memories online, but try to keep private those shots and stories that seem innocent enough now but could be embarrassing down the road — like bathtime, potty training developments or temper tantrums.

Talk with your kids

Yes, using social media and the internet safely requires some wisdom and intentionality, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip out on them all together. After all, your child will soon be using these same platforms on their own. And that’s a good thing! The internet is full of amazing tools for sharing photos, connecting with loved ones and much, much more. Prepare your child to use the best of the internet safely by modeling good practices and inviting them into the conversation now. Ask your kids what they’d like you to share (or not) before posting and discuss how you’re taking steps to protect them as you share those happy memories with loved ones near and far.

With smart practices and a secure connection, the internet can be a great tool for connecting with loved ones. Contact Race today to make sure you have the strong, secure, and reliable internet you need to share special memories with those who matter most.

Secure Your Home The Wireless Way

Home security is an area in which secure, high-speed internet from Race really shines, by providing the reliable, robust connectivity needed between you, your home, and first responders—whether you’re actually home or not.

Thinking of upgrading to wireless security? Consider some basic choices, including whether to go with do-it-yourself kits or professionally installed systems. Expect the price to rise depending on the monitoring and equipment.

Choices include video doorbells, indoor and outdoor security cameras, motion sensors, door break alarms, and smart locks (including some that unlock when a smoke detector goes off).

You can choose how much coverage you want by adding window, door, and motion sensors in various configurations. Sirens are another option. And don’t forget outdoor security lighting.

The Power of Wireless Integration

Smart home security systems allow you to customize and control from afar via apps on your smartphone or tablet, powered by your home WiFi network. Depending on the system, alerts can be delivered by text, email, phone call, or all of the above. Amazon Alexa and Google Home smart speakers also can be used.

All these systems can be integrated, too, using a wall control panel that also communicates with your smartphone and can include more functions such as turning on and off lights and controlling the thermostat.

Some Brand Names

Video doorbells already have proven themselves invaluable in the battle against porch pirates, those thieves who prey on package deliveries. They also act as a kind of caller ID for the front door. The best-known names here include Ring, Nest, and Vivint.

Nest and Ring also are among those suppliers of configurable, expandable do-it-yourself systems, as is SimpliSafe.

Professionally installed systems are still a specialty for venerable names like ADT and Brinks, and relative newcomer CPI.

The Price To Pay

A simple DIY video doorbell can cost from less than $15 to about $200, depending on the device.

According to HomeAdvisor, an average security system installation costs about $1,500. That webpage includes a project estimator that can give you a better idea based on what your system would include.

As for professionally installed and monitored home security systems, expect to pay from $300 to $1,600, according to ProtectAmerica, and then $30 or so a month for monitoring. Some also require long-term contracts.

So yes, there’s a price to pay. But just think of the convenience and safety. That’s why they’re called smart home security systems, after all.

And before you invest, don’t forget to check with Race to make sure you have the high-speed internet you need to power these wireless devices and more.

Cyber-security: How to keep your children safe!

The Internet is a great resource for you and your family. At the touch of a button, you have access to a world of knowledge and entertainment. Sadly, the internet is also a dangerous place to hang out – particularly for children. Nearly 60% of teens have received an email or instant message from a stranger – half of them have replied. With summer approaching, the potential for children to wind up on dangerous sites increases since kids have more free time and that usually means more screen time.

So what can you do? Just to get started, let’s list some things you can do almost immediately to help keep your kids safe while they’re online.

It won’t take a lot of time to try these suggestions, and while we’ll talk later on about setting up parental controls through your Race router, the following steps can give you some peace of mind until you can do so.

    1. Place computers in a common area of the house:
      Don’t allow kids to have a computer in their room. You’d be surprised by how much the mere presence of a parent who may or may not be looking over a child’s shoulder while they use the computer can keep a child in line. They have no way of knowing if your eyes are good enough to see across the room, now do they? Make sure the computer’s screen is visible from other parts of the room and isn’t turned toward a wall.
    2. Set reasonable time and usage limits:
      Set rules about what your child can and can’t do when on the internet. Set time limits on their computer use. If they say they’re researching homework, maybe you don’t include that in the time limits – but make sure they’re using it for homework.
    3. Discuss the dangers of the web with your child:
      Sit down and discuss the dangers of the internet. Talk openly and honestly about what’s out there and the kind of stuff they want to avoid. Forewarned is forearmed.
    4. Teach them to protect their privacy
      While they won’t fully understand the consequences of revealing personal information online, you should still make sure your children know:
      * Never to give their name, phone number, e-mail address, password, postal address, school, or picture without your permission
      * Not to open e-mail from people they don’t know
      * Not to respond to hurtful or disturbing messages
      * Not to get together with anyone they “meet” online.
    5. Keep the youngsters out of online chat rooms, and do your best to reinforce the old rule, “never talk to strangers.”:
      Chat rooms are a popular place for sex offenders to meet their prey. If possible, keep your kids out of chat rooms altogether. Make sure your child knows that no matter how nice an online “friend” may seem to be, they are still a stranger, and may not be who they appear to be. ​
    6. Know Passwords:
      Be upfront with your children that you will need to have their passwords for all of their devices and for all of their social media sites. Once you have the passwords, check these sites regularly to see what your child is seeing and posting.
    7. NEVER let your child upload or download photos without your permission:
      Online predators will often send photos supposedly of themselves or request photos of the child.

Turn your ISP into your ally
Before buying any safety product, experts recommend that you work with what you’ve got, starting with your Internet service provider – hopefully that is us at Race Communications!

Your Gigafy Me router includes free parental controls that can limit children’s access to websites and communication features (e-mail, instant messaging, chat) by the time of day and other variables. If you don’t have a router rental through Race, give us a call to have that added or if you have any questions about these features.

What is fiber optics and why is it better than copper?

Today, your Internet and TV services are probably connected to your home via copper wires. This technology has been around for over a hundred years, and it certainly wasn’t built for today’s uses and demands. Race Communications recognizes this and is working to build a network that will provide fiber optic internet to homes across the state of California. Now you may be wondering, what is fiber optic technology and is it better than copper? If so, why?

Fiber optic technology is far better and faster than copper at transmitting information, such as the bits that make up your favorite websites, Netflix shows, or online games. Fiber-optic cables are made of glass, and they use lasers to transmit information — close to the speed of light!

Investing in fiber-optic networks can significantly increase bandwidth potential and reliability. As mentioned earlier, copper infrastructure is limited because it was originally designed for transmitting the telegram! Think about that! The same infrastructure has been in use since the telegram – no wonder most homeowners are familiar with the slowdown that occurs when the clock hits 6:00 pm and everyone is home from work.

The signal for copper networks degrades as the signal is carried from the central office (CO) so distance is a huge factor in your internet’s performance. In contrast, when traveling over a long distance, fiber optic cables experience less signal loss than copper cabling. This is known as low attenuation. It is estimated that fiber loses only three percent signal strength going over 320 feet in distance. By contrast, copper loses 94 percent over the same distance.

While not everyone needs gigabit — or 1,000 megabits per second — the move to faster speeds is inevitable, and more companies are trying to offer these services, just look at Spectrum and Comcast. However, these providers do not use fiber optic technology and instead rely on the old copper wires. This means that the speeds will rarely (if ever) be symmetrical, data caps will apply and reliability will be an issue.

There are a number of factors that can cause outages when a company relies on a copper network – temperature fluctuations, severe weather conditions, and moisture can all cause a loss of connectivity. Old or worn copper cable can even present a fire hazard, due to the fact it carries an electric current – since fiber is made of glass it doesn’t present the same hazard!

Fiber optics is an amazing technology, but unfortunately, very few homes have direct access to fiber networks today. This is in large part due to the resource-intensive process of deploying new infrastructure – but Race Communications hasn’t let that slow us down, thanks to grants and partnerships with public and private entities!

If you are lucky enough to live in one of our fiber communities, don’t hesitate!

Submit an inquiry today to find out if you live in our fiber footprint (or if we are coming to a neighborhood near you soon) – or give us a call at 877-722-3833 to place your order!