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Checklist – Protect Against The Top 4 Threats to Cybersecurity

The Safety Checklist You Need to Protect Against These Top 4 Threats to Cybersecurity

Cyberattacks, or attempts by online criminals to access, steal, and use digital systems and information to commit crimes, are one of the top security threats to both businesses and individuals in 2023. Once cybercriminals get access to private data, they can steal enormous amounts of personal identifying information and money from millions of people.

While it’s true that many threats to cybersecurity are out of our control—the most sophisticated attacks target large organizations—there are still things you can do to improve your cybersecurity and protect yourself in the digital age.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity refers to the protection of computer systems, networks, and data against criminal and unauthorized access. Protective cybersecurity measures range from individual practices and habits—such as using strong, unique passwords for each online account—to software systems like firewalls that are specifically designed to protect digital information.

In this article, I’ll provide you with specific actions you can take to improve your cybersecurity habits and better protect yourself against the most common cyber threats to individuals.

Top 4 Threats to Individuals’ Cybersecurity in 2023

We’re exposed to cyberattacks every day in our email inboxes, on social media, and even through devices in our homes. Below are four of the top threats to individuals’ cybersecurity in 2023:

  • Poor cyber hygiene
  • Malware
  • Social engineering
  • Internet of Things

Poor cyber hygiene

Cyber hygiene refers to the steps and practices individuals take to organize their digital data and keep it protected. And unfortunately, poor cyber hygiene is rampant

By neglecting our own cyber hygiene, we make ourselves easy targets for hackers who want to steal and use our personal and financial information. Fortunately, poor cyber hygiene is easy to fix by avoiding these common traps: 

  • Using the same passwords across multiple accounts and devices (especially passwords that are simple or easy to guess)
  • Never changing passwords
  • Failing to update software systems

To improve your cyber hygiene, use the checklist at the bottom of this article. While good cyber hygiene may not shield you from every cyberattack, checking off the items on the list below can help you stay protected.


Malware, as the name implies, is a type of software that is designed to disrupt, damage, or infiltrate a computer system. One of the more common types of malware is called a computer “virus”, which is embedded in a file that the user is tricked into downloading from a fraudulent email or website. Once the file has been downloaded, the virus “infects” the computer, giving the hacker access to the information stored there.

Social engineering

Social engineering is a tactic attackers use to manipulate people into sharing personal information through fraudulent emails, text messages, and social media accounts. Attackers may pose as familiar or attractive online connections: trusted organizations, colleagues, romantic interests, celebrities, or impersonated friends and family. 

Once the imposter has gained the user’s trust, they trick them into voluntarily sharing personal information or clicking a malicious link that infects the device with malware. Login details, personal identifying information, and financial information are all details a social engineering criminal may be looking for.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the wide array of “smart” devices most people now have in their homes. The Echo Dot from Amazon (Alexa), fitness tracking watches, smart thermometers, and WiFi-enabled baby monitors are all examples of the IoT. These internet-enabled “things” provide a multitude of targets for hackers inside your home. 

How To Stay Safe Online

The list above is by no means exhaustive, but it does include four of the most common ways that hackers target individuals to steal their personal and financial information. Below are some easy ways to improve your cyber hygiene and keep yourself safe from cyberattacks.

Practice Good Password Habits

If you’re like the majority of Americans, you probably use the same password across multiple accounts. This is one of the easiest ways for hackers to steal your information. You can better protect your online accounts by using a different password for every login you have. 

While remembering dozens or even hundreds of passwords sounds impossible, a password manager is a great tool that allows you to create unique passwords with ease (no photographic memory or wall of sticky notes required!). Password managers are apps that provide a secure online storage system for all your passwords. All you need is a single “master” password to log in to your password manager.

Additionally, you should never share your passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs) with others. If you must share passwords in the workplace to access company systems, encourage your coworkers or employees to download a password manager for business where you can securely share login information with one another.   

Verify Before Clicking

Paying close attention to URLs and email addresses—even from senders you would normally trust—can prevent a cyberattack. As stated above, many cybercriminals send emails from imposter accounts that look like they’re coming from a familiar contact. But when you closely examine the sender’s email address, you’ll see that it’s not actually the correct email. Any links or downloadables inside the email should not be clicked.

Similarly, malicious websites often try to pose as websites from trusted organizations. The padlock symbol to the left of the URL in the address bar is one indication that a website may be safe. (However, even malicious websites can add this security feature, so it’s not foolproof.) You should also double-check that the URL itself is correct for the site you’re trying to visit.

Use Defensive Measures

Preventing a cyberattack before it happens is much easier than recovering from one, so it’s good practice to use a variety of defensive measures to protect yourself.

For online accounts, two-factor authentication (TFA) can help protect your information even if a hacker obtains your login details. TFA requires you to verify yourself from two different sources. For example, your login details may act as the first authentication, while entering a code that has been texted to you may act as the second authentication.

Next, it’s important to update your apps, systems, and devices often. Software updates contain improved security features and may include security “patches” if a data breach occurs. Failing to update software leaves you unnecessarily vulnerable to cyberattacks. 

Likewise, don’t fall behind on antimalware or antivirus subscriptions. Investing in reputable antimalware software can prevent malware from infecting your device, as well as identify and remove malware that has already infiltrated your systems. 

Your Checklist to Protect Yourself Against Cybersecurity Threats

To defend yourself against the threat of cyberattacks, use the checklist below to improve your cyber hygiene. While you may never be able to protect yourself from all the cyberattacks out there, you can make it much, much harder for cybercriminals to target you.

  • Use unique passwords for every online account you have
  • Store your passwords in a secure password manager
  • Never share passwords or PINs
  • Pay close attention to URLs and email addresses to ensure they aren’t fraudulent
  • Don’t click on links or download files from senders you don’t trust
  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Update software often
  • Invest in reputable antivirus/antimalware software

Protect Yourself and Your Wealth Against Cybersecurity Threats in 2023

As a financial advisor, one of the most important things I can do for my clients is help them protect themselves: their wealth, their information, and their families. Part of that protection involves good cyber hygiene. Good cyber hygiene is essential for protecting the life you’ve so carefully built both for yourself and for future generations in your family. 

I take pride in helping my clients protect themselves across all facets of life—not just their finances. To see how I can help you create a financial plan that covers more than just your numbers, click here to schedule a conversation today.

Content in this material is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.


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