I’m going to tell you how to protect yourself and your family from being the victim of a cyber attack. But you’ll need to admit that you’ve been lazy, and set some time aside today to deal with the cybercriminals that are surely coming after you – and may ruin the holidays for you and your family.

The cybercrime epidemic has hit the U.S. so hard that a supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who investigates cyber intrusions told The Wall Street Journal that every American citizen should expect that all of their data (personally identifiable information) has been stolen and is now on the dark web.

Whether that’s an exaggeration or not, in light of the recent Marriott data breach – the second largest on record – which exposed 500 million user accounts, there’s a good chance that at least some of your personally identifiable information (PII) is in criminal hands right now or it will be soon. If you don’t want to take my word for it, then read this article in The Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, the Yahoo hack – which affected 3 billion user accounts – wasn’t enough to convince you.

I think that you should listen to the FBI agent, and expect the worst. He’s not trying to sell anything. His warning is not vendor F.U.D. (fear, uncertainty, doubt). He is genuinely concerned with helping you. That’s what the FBI does. They watch out for us, they learn about crimes (including cyber) before we do, they alert us, and they provide advice on how to protect ourselves.

Do these 2 things today:

1.  Turn on 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) in your Email App. (this is also commonly referred to as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).

It literally takes just a few minutes to do this. If you turn on 2FA, then a cyber thief won’t be able to access your email account even if they’ve got your login ID and password.

I wrote this article in Sept. 2017 – after the Yahoo hack (the largest ever) was recalculated to have affected 3 billion users, up from an earlier assessment of 1 billion users. I recommend switching from Yahoo Mail to Gmail, and explain why. And I provide easy-to-follow directions for turning on Gmail’s Two-Factor Verification (same as 2FA).

I wrote this article in Oct. 2017 – after the Equifax breach caused 143 million U.S. consumers to have their email credentials, Social Security numbers and birth dates, plus other personal information, to become accessible to cyber thieves. I explain how to turn on 2FA (a.k.a. MFA) in Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, and other popular email services.

2.  Change all or as many of your passwords as possible, and use better passwords. This doesn’t require much explaining. You already know what you need to do. But you’ve been too lazy to do it. Access to your email account, bank account, and other information may be on the dark web right now. Do you really want to keep taking that chance? Consider using a password manager app to help.

I really hope that you’ll listen to me. I don’t mean to offend anyone by calling them lazy. Cybercrime damages are predicted to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015. The cyber threat is very real. Take action today and protect yourself from cybercriminals.

Happy Holidays!

– Steve Morgan, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Cybersecurity Ventures