If you conduct any business or monetary transactions online, cybercriminals want your information, and they are willing to work hard to get it. Phishing and other scams have grown more sophisticated, and even those who pay for internet security suffer breaches — look at Equifax and Capital One.

In today’s data-driven world, though, logging offline and living in a cave holds little appeal. Most of us enjoy the ability to bank online, send money instantly, and communicate with family and friends around the globe. While no security plan proves infallible, growing your awareness of the six critical factors below, which are influencing the importance of cybersecurity can help keep you safer.

1. The Number of Connected Devices

You probably log onto your laptop or cellphone to get online, but those aren’t the only options. There remains a massive array of devices connect to the internet today, and anyone of them could lead to potential breaches. Home security systems, vehicle computer systems, smart televisions, even the Kindle you use to read connect online are potentially vulnerable.

This opens you to a host of hackers. Even your router can prove troublesome — in 2018; researchers discovered Russian hackers launching attacks against home routers in the U.S. These hackers aren’t nerds sitting in their mom’s basement. They’re paid to steal information, and once they get into your router, they can manipulate any device on your system.

This includes speech devices such as Alexa. While automated home controls make life more convenient — who doesn’t enjoy knowing who’s at the front door before answering it? — They make privacy troublesome. If you fail to protect yourself with a quality virtual private network (VPN), hackers could listen to the most intimate conversations in your home.

2. Companies Have Experienced Breaches

Recently, a hacker accessed over 100 million Capital One customers’ accounts, gaining access to 140,000 Social Security numbers. This hardly marks the first time a major institution has lost valuable customer data. Hackers also gained access to Canadian Social Insurance numbers and some 80,000 bank account numbers.

The recent Equifax breach likewise affected 143 million Americans or 44 percent of all consumers. While the bureau now offers consumers a choice between 10 years of free credit monitoring or $125 in cash, this move provides cold comfort to those who have found their ability to buy a home or car compromised.

Obviously, if organizations this large prove vulnerable, little truly is safe online. Change your banking passwords often, at least once per quarter, and choose combinations that include lowercase and uppercase letters, special symbols, and numbers. Avoid using password combinations hackers can easily guess, such as those containing your date of birth, name, or anniversary.

3. More Sophisticated Attacks Exist

Spam emails used to look suspicious, but more sophisticated techniques make even the internet-wary liable to fall prey. One type of more complex attack includes using artificial intelligence to draft emails indecipherable from those written by humans. These attacks sneak past many typical spam filters due to imitating genuine emails so well.

Additionally, the reliance many of us have on our phone proves troublesome. More than 60 percent of online fraud attacks target mobile devices, and often through apps, not the phone itself. You should read reviews carefully before downloading cellphone apps and stick with ones from reputable organizations.

4. Business Penalties Are Harsh

If your negligence leads to a data breach in a business operation you have, you could face severe civil penalties. Depending upon your industry, you could risk losing your license to practice your trade. For example, the Institute for Internal Auditors sets code of ethics standards for auditors that include stipulations for confidentiality and competency. Theoretically, a client complaint could lead to violations of these standards, and repeated instances could impact your license.

5. Consumers Have Little Realistic Recourse

If your data is stolen, little recourse exists for you in terms of repairing your credit and getting your money back after a breach. You can accept what they offer, but you waive your right to further litigation. For many, this makes sense — as most lack the financial means to institute legal action on their own.

If you were a victim of identity theft, what can you do?

  • File a police report. While this does little on its own — after all, local police have no jurisdiction to arrest overseas hackers — it acts as a declaration of your innocence. It can also help when dealing with the credit bureaus to get fraudulent information removed.
  • Contact the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides an online reporting tool that will help you develop an action plan to rebuild from identity theft and fraud.
  • Contact the credit bureaus. Once you’ve reported the fraud, contact the three major credit bureaus. Write a letter identifying the breach, the specific accounts that are not yours, and copies of your FTC and police report.
  • Reach out to victim’s assistance. You may or may not qualify for victim’s assistance based upon the gravity of the crime. If you do qualify, this may help you recover financially.

Keeping Yourself Safe Online

In our connected world, staying on top of cybersecurity seems daunting. However, it’s critical to your financial and personal well-being. Knowledge is power, and educating yourself on the threats is half the battle.