As Americans venture online in greater numbers to accommodate work, school and shopping realities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, First Community Bank (FCB) of East Tennessee and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) are offering practical steps during Cybersecurity Awareness Month to help them safeguard sensitive data and mitigate losses in the event of a data breach or compromise.

“Educating customers about account safety and cyber threats is something we must all be mindful about, particularly now as criminals look to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for nefarious purposes,” said Jordan Key, FCB’s System and Security Administrator. “We take our responsibility as financial stewards of our customers’ data seriously and want to do our part to strengthen our cybersecurity ecosystem and equip Americans with the knowledge to protect themselves against a data compromise.”

An estimated 67 percent of data breaches resulted from credential theft, human error or social attacks. FCB and ICBA encourage consumers to take the following steps to reduce their likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud:

  • Enable the strongest authentication tools offered by their bank. Popular authentication methods include biometrics, security keys and single-use codes.
  • Use unique passphrases as passwords and differentiate them across multiple platforms. Length trumps complexity. A strong passphrase is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long.
  • Do a system check. Purge unused apps and outdated or sensitive information stored in old files and emails and ensure all software on internet-connected devices is current.
  • Manage social media settings and minimize information sharing. Just a few data points can create a pathway for exploitation by cybercriminals.
  • Use WiFi judiciously: Limit the type of business conducted over open public WiFi connections, including logging in to key accounts like banking.

Consumers can also make sure their account has not been compromised by taking the following steps:

  • Monitor account activity regularly for transaction irregularities and report discrepancies to your financial institution immediately.
  • Back up intellectual property and other digital information and store it safely so in the unfortunate event of a ransomware or other cyber threats you have a way to retrieve the data.
  • Read the fine print when purchasing items online. If prompted, don’t save credit and debit card information on the merchant’s website or app.
  • Stay vigilant. Be mindful when shopping online and look for signs of illegitimate websites. Spelling or grammatical errors, missing contact information, and suspicious URLs or email addresses are all red flags.
  • Look for special indicators such as web addresses with https:// that denote extra measures taken to help secure your information. URLS that end in .BANK are assigned for exclusive use by financial institutions.

Learn more about how to protect your digital life during Cybersecurity Awareness Month by visiting the Stay Safe Online website and spread the word on social media with the hashtag #BeCyberSmart.

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