With so much commerce done online, like shopping, banking, and bill paying, everyone is a potential target for cyber thieves. According the National Security Council, President Obama has declared that “cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation” and that “America's economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.” Cybercrime can be big – targeting countries, but it can also affect individuals.
To that end, Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial is urging everyone to take an active role in keeping their personal information safe.
“We need our customers to update their security systems on their computers and to protect their personal information via appropriate pins and passwords,” said PNC’s Fred Solomon.
That means unique passwords for different sites, and avoiding using passwords or pins that contain personal numbers like birthdays or addresses, or are extremely simple and common like 1111 and 1234.
“It is a very bad idea to use the same password for your bank account that you use for Facebook and other types of sites. Those should be different passwords,” said Solomon.
Last month PNC was among a handfull of large American financial institutions targeted in a cyber attack. Websites were overwhelmed by e-mails, which meant that actual customers could not get through to access their accounts. This kept some people from being able to access their funds, pay bills, and do other online banking. But, Solomon said because of the ongoing efforts of PNC, it wasn’t as bad as it was at some other financial institutions.
“Our sites, while customers did experience intermittent difficulty reaching PNC’s websites, we maintained our services during the event,” he said.
PNC uses sophisticated software to protect its systems and has a team of security staff working on cyber issues. But, Solomon added, the company alone can’t protect everyone, which is why individuals are asked to make sure their own information stays safe. In addition, Solomon urged consumers to be vigilant to real-world threats as well as cyber attacks.
“During the holiday season, credit cards and debit cards are also at risk,” he said, “we remind customers at PNC, the incidents of credit card loss and theft is approximately 19 percent higher than it is during the rest of the year, we want customers to do what they can to protect their cards.”
That can mean not lending your card out to anyone, not giving anyone your pin, and making sure you keep an eye on your card at restaurants and other places you may have to hand it over to pay. A full list of cyber suggestions from PNC follows:
- Passwords and Personal Identification Numbers (PIN)- Avoid using any type of personal information, including social security numbers, birthdays, significant names and account numbers, as PIN numbers or passwords. This personal information is easy to find and could increase your risk of compromising online accounts. If you are currently using personal information as passwords, it is a good idea to change them.
- Differentiate your Passwords - Do not use the same password for social media sites and shopping that you use to conduct financial transactions.
- Sluggish Computer Signals Problem -If your home computer becomes very slow, or takes a long time to load pages, that is an indication that spyware could be present. Use a reputable spyware removal tool regularly to minimize the risk of your information being stolen.
- Wi-Fi Warning – Before logging on to a wi-fi connection in a public place (coffee shops, hotels, etc), confirm with an employee the EXACT name of their network and login steps. Hackers can hijack hotspots in public places to lure users to their own network, capturing passcodes and other valuable information.
- Public Exchange – Avoid sharing confidential/sensitive information when logged onto a public network. You never know who might be watching.
- Sanitize Your Cyber Space - Make sure you have the latest security software and operating system updates (patches) to defend against threats such as malware, viruses and phishing scams. Update apps frequently to stay current with new threats.
- Click with Care – Be cautious of flashing "special offers" and pop-ups, especially when that click redirects you to an unexpected website. Good rule is never to provide personal information on a site that you do not know or cannot confirm is secure.
- Do Not Donate Data - When you plan to upgrade your personal device, before donating or giving old devices to a family member, be sure wipe it clean of all data. Clear your browser history and cache too.