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Editorial: Be cyber safe

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. The observance couldn't be timed better for 2017.

In September, the credit reporting agency Equifax (i.e. all of us) suffered the worst data breach in the computer era. The fact that hackers exploited a security vulnerability made headlines for weeks.

That means now — before big holiday shopping begins — is a good time for consumers to review their online security measures. You need to take steps to secure your technology, data and personal information.

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota has tips for decreasing your exposure:

One, start by protecting your computer. Always install the most recent updates for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

Two, avoid suspicious links and attachments. Scammers often seek to spread malware and viruses via email, sometimes sending emails from friends or relatives whose accounts have been hacked.

Three, don't click on any suspicious links or attachments — especially ZIP files — that you didn't expect would be arriving in your inbox. Even from people you know.

Four, stick to trustworthy websites. Check on the seller's reputation and record for customer satisfaction at bbb.org. Look for the BBB seal and other widely recognized "trust marks" on retailer websites. Note: Always remember to click on the seals to confirm that they are valid.

Fifth, guard your personal information. Take the time to read those lengthy privacy policy on websites. Understand what personal information is being collected and how it will be used. If you don't see one posted, be aware your information may be sold to others without your permission.

Finally, confirm that your online purchases are secure. Look at the web address bar for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying.

If you don't, you could find yourself paying in more ways than you ever expected.

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