Brisk air, falling leaves, the scent of pumpkin spice latte. For most people in the U.S., it’s that time of year again—time to fall back an hour and gain a little extra sleep. According to the safety gurus, it’s also time to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. It’s unclear when the public campaign to link this important safety practice to daylight saving time (DST) was first introduced, but it’s brilliant. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, there are over 350,000 residential fires every year, causing over 2,700 deaths and 10,750 injuries. But one of the simplest and most effective things anyone can do to protect their families and their homes from a home fire is to have a properly-installed and tested smoke alarm with a fresh battery.
Today, the mantra of “safety first” goes way beyond prevention of physical harm—it has the mandatory inclusion of cybersecurity. In fact, according to a study by Javelin Strategy and Research, 16.7 million Americans were affected by identity theft in 2017, costing them $16.8 billion. For every house fire, there are 50 cases of identity theft. It’s time to add a cybersecurity review to your DST routine. Here are some smart cybersecurity practices that are worth doing at least one every six months.
Review Your Privacy and Security Settings
When you sign up on a new site or download an app, it’s easy to skip over all the privacy and security settings to get to the good stuff. And later—as in, I’ll come back later and do this all properly—never comes. But it’s a big deal. Cybersecurity doom-and-gloomers would have you believe that you can never truly protect yourself, but you do have some control and your settings are your opportunity to assert your preferences. Even if you are diligent about setting privacy and security settings right up front, your preferences can change over time, as can the options available to you. Review the privacy and security settings in your browsers, as well as the email, social media, banking, shopping, and other sites and apps you use on a regular basis, and make any changes needed.
Update Your Applications and Mobile Apps
Old software can pose a security risk to computers and mobile devices. Take this opportunity to double-check that everything you’re using is up to date. You want all the latest patches, not to mention fixes and new features that come with new versions. And if there are any apps that you’re not using, ditch ‘em. Uninstalling them will not only keep you safer, it’ll free up space.
Change Your Passwords
You know you’re supposed to change your passwords on a regular basis. But let’s face it, even if that’s actually on one of your to-do lists, it’s nowhere near the top. Now you have no excuse—this new DST ritual will have you changing your passwords twice a year like clockwork (pun intended). Make all your passwords strong, which means they should have at least eight characters, and more is better; use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols; and include both upper and lowercase letters. Don’t re-use them; each site or application should have its own unique password. If there are any accounts you no longer use, don’t let them languish—just delete them. And similarly, don’t forget those apps you once uninstalled, which have only just been removed from your device. You still need to go the extra mile of deleting the account. If that feels too drastic, and you want to keep the account around for whatever reason, at the very least update your credentials with a throwaway email address so it’s not associated with your primary email. And still change the password.
Check Your Credit Reports
Did you know 16.7 million Americans were affected by identity theft in 2017, costing them $16.8 billion? It’s not just the money—identity theft can wreak havoc on your life. Checking your credit reports regularly can help you identify suspicious activity or accounts that could be signs of identity theft. Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to give you a free credit report every 12 months if you ask for it. Asking is easy through AnnualCreditReport.com, the official site to get your free annual credit reports. Since you only get one free report per 12-month period, and there are three different credit bureaus, split them up. Request two when you fall back, and then the third when you spring forward (or vice versa). That way, you don’t go a full year without checking for any suspicious activity. And if you find a problem or evidence of fraud, you can always get all the other reports at that time for a nominal fee.
Be on Time, Be Safe, and Be Cyber Secure
There are so many headlines about security and privacy breaches, all of which are quickly followed by a laundry list of things you need to do right now to protect yourself—after a while it just feels like fatigue. That’s why building onto the semi-annual routine of changing your clocks is such a good idea. So fall back, change your batteries, do a cybersecurity review, update everything. Then reward yourself with a tasty pumpkin spice latte and an extra hour of sleep.