As technology habits evolve, it's more important than ever to keep your family safe from cyber threats

(BPT) – If you’re like most Americans, how you use technology today is likely vastly different than just a year ago. As COVID-19 began to impact society, many aspects of daily life went virtual, and everything from office work, to doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and even our kids’ classrooms came home to us.

Although the shift to a digital-first life was brought on by the global pandemic, people have no plans to look back. In fact, the majority of U.S. adults intend to keep the digital shift in their normal routine post-COVID, particularly in online banking (61%), social engagements (56%) and personal shopping (52%), according to the 2021 Consumer Security Mindset Research by McAfee.

Increase in online activity means increased risk

With the increase in activities online, the potential to be exposed to cyber threats increases as well. As people continue to adapt to and embrace their new digital worlds, cybercriminals are taking note and looking to take advantage. The more time people spend online interacting with various applications and services, the greater their exposure is to potential risks (such as third-party breaches) and threats (such as phishing attacks or fraud).

Notably, two out of three people in the survey say they’re concerned about today’s cyber risks, with one in three admitting they are not confident in their ability to prevent a cyberattack. Further proof this is a big concern: 71% of U.S. respondents admitted to being most concerned about their financial data being stolen and 68% were concerned that their personal information, such as birthday or address, could get hacked.

“The first step in protecting ourselves is realizing that there’s a lot we can do to stay safe online and to preserve our digital wellness,” said Terry Hicks, EVP of McAfee’s Consumer Business. “It’s better to prevent a problem than be in the position of having to fix it.”

McAfee’s uncovers vulnerability impacting popular consumer apps

These security concerns come to life a bit as McAfee’s Advanced Threat Research (ATR) team recently found a new vulnerability, which allows hackers to spy on live video and audio calls on a variety of popular social apps. The security flaw exists in a video conferencing software used by eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, MeetMe and Skout — as well as healthcare apps such as Talkspace and Practo. A significant concern for consumers as McAfee found that since the onset of the pandemic, over half of consumers (51%) increased online doctors’ appointments, while 32% increased online therapy and 27% increased dating.

A digital mindset requires a safety-first approach

To facilitate comfort and connection from home, many people purchased new digital devices in 2020. However, only 50% took action by purchasing security software, and only one in four admitted they actually check if their security software is up to date, found the survey.

As people are becoming more comfortable with sharing information online the risk grows — especially as services often ask for multiple contact points. Keep in mind, hackers are always looking for ways to exploit others for money, and a person’s identity is valuable and can be resold for surprisingly large sums.

Being proactive is the best approach to keep yourself and your family safe as the shift in digital lifestyles is here to stay. Some ways you can protect yourself and loved ones include:

  • Use multi-factor authentication to double-check the authenticity of digital users and add an additional layer of security to protect personal data and information.
  • Connect with caution. If you have to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection use a virtual private network (VPN) like McAfee® Safe Connect to help keep you safe while you’re online.
  • Browse with added security using a tool like McAfee WebAdvisor to block malware and phishing sites if you click on a malicious link.
  • Protect your identity and important personal information by using McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which also helps you recover your information if your identity is compromised.

“We can always work on our own safe online habits — from the apps we install, to the websites we click on, to the emails we open,” says Hicks. “Making this shift in our mindset and behaviors is a necessity in protecting what we value most — our privacy and identity — giving us all much needed peace of mind.”