In the virtual world we live in today, it has become the norm to have large amounts of personal information stored online. Now with especially so much confidential financial information online, keeping these details private and out of the hands of hackers is on the minds of many. Yet in just 2015, 594 million people around the world were affected by some sort of online crime.1
Hacking incidents, including the exposure of the personal information of millions of people, seem to, unfortunately, happen more and more often.
Here are a few tips to protect yourself and your confidential information—
Logging on to a public Wi-Fi network seems harmless enough. Yet as convenient as these networks can be, they are often insecure. If you need to make an online purchase or access confidential information, you may be better off using cellular data or waiting until you reach a secure network rather than using the coffee shop’s free Wi-Fi. Hackers can gain access to users’ information by taking advantage of the flaws in insecure networks, which often have reduced security settings to enable easier access for users.2
That annoying message that keeps appearing on your phone telling you to update your software may be worth not ignoring next time. Software updates more often than not also include security updates for your device. Hackers can look for devices that have not yet been updated to invade the less secure software. Another item to prioritize updating is your anti-virus, anti-spyware, or anti-malware software. This is especially necessary if you are accessing financial information online or completing any transactions online. Keeping the security software installed on your devices updated is the best way to ensure it can effectively do its job.
Checking your credit report is one of the most reliable methods of ensuring your identity has not been compromised. A free credit report is accessible at AnnualCreditReport.com, which you are able to access every 12 months from three different credit bureaus.2 By checking your credit report, you may be able to locate suspicious activity by closely observing the data. In the case that you do find activity that is not yours, alert both your bank and other financial institutions as soon as possible. In addition to checking your credit report, be sure to monitor all monthly financial statements you receive to check for possible breaches. For some added security, subscribe to a service, which will monitor your accounts and alert you if suspicious activity arises.
Your password should be something hard to guess, with a combination of numbers, symbols and a variation of upper and lowercase letters. Have the same password for everything? You’ll want to change that—if a hacker manages to access just one account of yours, they could then access others and gain even more information. Get creative and change your password often. If available, use a two-step authentication system, such as a fingerprint, to make it your account even more secure. Lastly, don’t get lazy with factory pre-set passwords—change them! Enhance your home’s security by changing the password that came with your devices—a simple online search including the name of your internet provider should provide you with instructions to do so.
While this may seem like an obvious suggestion, many still store passwords or confidential files in places that could be easily compromised. If you worry about forgetting passwords, consider using a password manager to keep track of numerous usernames and passwords for you. There are several platforms to choose from—both free and paid options—that only require you to remember a master password. Lastly, while keeping your online information safe is crucial, don’t forget about protecting hard copies of confidential information as well. Keep documents such as your social security card and financial documents stored in a safe place, rather than carrying them around with you.
For information regarding National Cyber Security Awareness Month (October) and more details on how to protect your online privacy, visit https://staysafeonline.org/ncsam/.
Written by North Star Resource Group.
1Norton by Symantec (2016). Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report. Retrieved from http://us.norton.com/.
2FINRA (2016, Jan 14). Keeping Your Account Secure: Tips for Protecting Your Financial Information. FINRA: Investor Alerts. Retrieved from http://www.finra.org/investors/alerts/keeping-your-account-secure-tips-protecting-your-financial-information.