"Cyber hygiene" is a great way to think about the importance of taking regular steps to proactively protect our connected devices, such as our mobile phones, laptops, desktop computers and smart appliances from cyber threats.

While banks in Canada use sophisticated technology and layers of security to help protect customers from fraud when doing their banking online, there are steps that you can, and should, take to protect yourself.

Here’s a primer on the most commons frauds and scams and how you can practice cyber hygiene to protect yourself:

Spotting an online scam

The Internet has made it easier than ever to conduct business and manage finances with greater speed, efficiency and convenience.

It also allows people to communicate with friends and family through social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter and smartphones and tablets allow Canadians to do all that from virtually anywhere.

Unfortunately, criminals also use the Internet to try to gain access to personal information such as passwords, personal banking and credit card details and social insurance numbers to commit fraud.

The CBA has information about various types of fraud and tips on how consumers can protect themselves at: www.cba.ca/fraud. You’ll learn more about:

You can also sign up to receive regular updates on the latest scams through the CBA’s Fraud Prevention Tip e-mail newsletter.

Your top 10 cyber hygiene checklist

Your online habits may be putting you at risk. A regular check-up of your cyber security routine will help lessen the chance of being victimized by an online threat. Creating reminders on your devices or a checklist each month are good habits to form. Here are some steps and resources to help form your cyber hygiene routine:

  1. Install the right protection software – make sure that you install anti-virus, anti-spyware and Internet firewall tools purchased from trusted retailers or suppliers. Keep these programs enabled and continuously updated to protect your devices against malicious software.
  2. Create unique, strong passwords – ensure that you create strong and unique passwords for each Internet log-in identity and for your mobile phone and tablet. Take a look at our Tips for Creating Secure Passwords.
  3. Be wary of downloading free apps, files, programs, software or screensavers – malicious code, like spyware (that secretly monitors what you do online) and keystroke loggers (that secretly track what you are typing) can be hidden within the downloaded file or app and used to access personal information, such as passwords and financial information.
  4. Familiarize yourself with your devices’ legitimate warning or security alert messages – do not click anywhere on the screen (including the "Cancel" button in the on-screen dialogue box) if you receive an unfamiliar or suspicious warning message.
  5. Protect your home network – always take special precautions when setting up your wireless home networks to connect your devices. Read more at Get Cyber Safe.
  6. Keep your operating system up-to-date – try to keep your operating system updated with the newest version available. These updates have important security patches and fixes that will protect against the latest threats.
  7. Schedule regular back-ups of your data - backup your files frequently to an external source - like an external drive or cloud-based storage - that is not linked to your computer.
  8. Be cautious when using WiFi – free WiFi could expose you to hackers and identity theft. Thieves may be able to access data, activity and passwords on public WiFi connections. When making purchases or doing your banking wirelessly, make sure you are using a secure WiFi connection. Learn more.
  9. Clear your cache – when you visit different websites, the website addresses are stored in the cache, or memory, of your computer. Make sure you clear the cache of your browser after visiting secure sites so that nobody else can view any confidential information you may have transmitted.
  10. Disable file sharing networks. File sharing networks, often called “peer-to-peer” (P2P), are popular because they allow users to upload and download music, movies, games, documents and other computer programs across global networks. However, using these networks is considered a high-risk activity since peer-to-peer sites is commonly used by criminals to distribute objectionable or illegal files and viruses that are disguised to look like innocent downloads of popular songs, movies, etc.