In the last year, major cybersecurity breaches have occurred throughout the country and affected millions of American consumers. Retail giants like Target and Home Depot are struggling to detect and repel malicious hackers. Even the banking industry has been breached in significant ways. The best way to protect your personal information is to take personal responsibility. Here are a few ways to improve your personal cybersecurity.

Choose Passphrases Instead of Passwords, Change Often

Passwords are becoming more and more vulnerable to hackers. The standard user generally chooses a password that is simple to remember and relevant to their life. Most often, it is a combination of two words or a single word. A way to keep the simplicity and relevance while also improving the strength of the password is to use a “passphrase.” Instead of the name of a loved one, choose your favorite movie quote or a memorable song lyric. You can still choose something that will stay in your memory, more words will add additional layers of security. Changing your passwords often is also recommended and though it’s a challenge for most people, it is one of the best ways to keep the cyber criminals off your trail.

Keep Track of your Software: Installation and Updates

Installing malicious software onto your computer is one of the favorite tricks in the hackers’ playbook. Beware any pop-up window that asks you to install software or a program that you have not actively downloaded. Even if the name seems familiar, check to make sure that the familiar program is actually the one prompting you to update. After a safe installation, also make sure to regularly check for software updates offered by the program designers to prevent any leaks in your security.

Practice Healthy Skepticism with your Inbox

The personal inbox remains the most lucrative place for sneaking into a computer system. Spammers, phishers, and all types of digital delinquents will try to get access to your personal information through emails and your contacts list. Once they’ve compromised one inbox, they will try to reach out to more. Be careful opening emails that you don’t recognize or weren’t expecting. Most offers that are too good to be true probably are so. Even if you recognize the name of the sender, be sure to scan the subject line with a healthy dose of skepticism. Don’t follow links that you can’t verify with the person that sent them. Even if the message speaks of an emergency or an urgent need for help, spend the extra time you need to confirm its veracity. Hackers will play on your emotions for their own personal gain, so beware cries for help or heart-wrenching charity cases.