In today’s world so much of our lives revolve in the digital world. Beyond just email or social media, there’s online banking and access to investment accounts. A lot of personal information is available through these online accounts. Now, I deal with confidential matters on a daily basis and I’ve hired CMIT Solutions of St. Charles/Chesterfield to make sure that my client files are well protected, but I asked them to provide me some simple, important, changes to personal digital security to share with you. Here are their five top suggestions:
- PROTECT YOUR PASSWORD.
Most of us create passwords that are easy for us to remember, but easy for others to guess. Our passwords may reference a pet, friend, family member, or “happy place”. Then, we adapt that same password to create new ones. Unfortunately, many sites fail to block or encrypt your password; the password that gets stolen from a website you may consider low-risk could hold the key hackers need to access your bank account, amazon account and more. Cybersecurity experts suggest that you use a combination 10+ characters that include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. They advise you to change your passwords every three months if possible. If this feels like too much, one great tool I use is LastPass, which will manage all of your passwords for your, so you only have to remember a single password for all sites you visit on a regular basis. One final note: Many sites offer two-factor authentication (2FA), which pairs your username and password with a separate piece of data only you could have access to. This could include requiring you to confirm a pin you’ve set; a code form an SMS message or provide a fingerprint. Take advantage of this service whenever you can!
- BE AWARE OF YOUR PRESENCE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
We use social media to connect with family and friends, but there are plenty of strangers ready to use your information for a profit. Social media sites have almost all of your personal information, ranging from your phone number and payment information, your birthday, and the answers to common security questions. A major data breach can easily lead to identity theft. I’m sure you’ve seen friends who’ve had their profile pictures and information hijacked on Facebook in order to be used by scam artists. To keep yourself safe, these social sites are constantly making changes to increase security. Take advantage of this! Use new features Facebook is offering, and be careful about what information you add to your profile, not every field on your profile is necessary or required. Be smart about friend requests, keep your profile private and only add people you know. Finally, be aware that there are scammers out there. Social engineering scams are on the rise: scammers try to gain your trust to learn personal information and then once they’ve gathered enough information, either guess a person’s password or get them to reset. Beware of links and attachments sent through social media, and be cautious if someone you know asks you a strange question on social media (they could be a scammer who’s hacked or created a fake profile).
- BACKUP YOUR DATA AND UPDATE YOUR SOFTWARE.
Imagine the headache of trying to reconstruct files and documents if someone were to steal your laptop. External hard drives are inexpensive and worth the cost. Save your data to an external hard drive and keep it in a secure place. Do not rely on thumb drives; they are handy but easy to lose! If your data is ever held hostage by ransomware, having a backup of your data will save you a lot of heartache. Another way to ensure you data is secure, is to update your devices. Companies regularly update software, making it easier to use and, more importantly, more secure.
- DON’T CLICK ON AN EMAIL OR WEBSITE IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE SOURCE.
Web browsing can lull us into a false sense of safety, and before we know it, we have clicked on a suspicious link. Not only do you put yourself at risk, but you also expose your friends, family members, and business associates to potential danger. Hackers can snoop around your profiles, likes, and activities and gather information about your contacts.
- MONITOR YOUR ACCOUNT FOR ACTIVITY
Log out of all websites and lock devices when you are finished. This means that you will have to log in each time, but it also means that you can see if an unauthorized person has tried to access your account. Delete all accounts that you no longer use.
With a little time and effort, you can begin to secure your electronic devices!