How to Keep Safe Online

From Yahoo to Target to the Democratic National Committee, hacks compromising your personal information have become commonplace in the modern world.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, U.S. companies and government agencies suffered over 1,000 data breaches last year — a 40 percent increase from 2015.

Personal attacks are on the rise as well. Boston Consumers' Checkbook has come up with a list of things you can do to keep your computers safe from attack. Chief among them: don't open an email unless you're certain it's legitimate.

"Almost all hacks these days depend on a user doing something dumb, whether clicking on a link in an email or downloading a software package or doing something that enacts this intrusion," said Kevin Brasler of Boston Consumers' Checkbook.

It's recommended you keep up to date — that means turning on all your automatic updates and checking for them daily. Also, change your passwords monthly, making sure to use a different password for every site you frequent.

"Most people can't remember complex passwords for every different website they go to. We recommend using a password manager software. Almost all of them are free. They generate a long, long, random password and there's one password that controls everything," said Brasler.

Other tips to keep in mind: secure your router, use a firewall, don't plug in unknown USB storage devices, back up your important files, and be careful when using public WiFi. Don't log into your bank account, or use your passwords in a public WiFi setting.

"Just assume when you are on a public WiFi system that everyone can see what you do while you're on your computer," said Brasler.

You may notice that when hacks do occur at major companies, consumers are usually only notified about it weeks later, giving them little time to change their passwords or usernames.

There are websites available that can tell you if your information is up for sale or has been sold. A few include Have I Been Pwned, Breach Alarm and Hacked Emails.

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