While there’s no denying that the internet makes everyday life a whole lot easier, convenience comes with a price.
According to Juniper Research, a staggering $2 trillion was lost to cyber-crime in 2019. And security experts estimate that the number will rise to $6 trillion in 2021. The 2017 Equifax data breach alone compromised the names, addresses, and even Social Security numbers of 147 million people. Equifax had to pay a $425 million settlement to those affected by the breach and has suffered a significant confidence hit. With companies reporting incidents left and right, it’s only a matter of time before the next massive breach happens again.
With this in mind, you need to consider the security of your financial data online. You need to know how to keep your personal information safe online. In this article, I will discuss 7 important tips on how to stay safe.
7 tips & tricks on how to keep your personal information safe online:
1. Use Strong and Unique Passwords
Audit all your online accounts, including social media, email, and online banking, to determine the strength and variety of your passwords. Make sure to use a unique 12-digit password for each account using a combination of upper/lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. You can also use a combination of 3-4 random words. Never include names (kids, pets, etc.), nicknames, and birthdays in your passwords.
Avoid using the same username and password for all your accounts. Don’t save login credentials on your phone. Either write them down in a piece of paper and secure it in a vault or use a password manager that encrypts and stores your data.
2. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Protect all your accounts with multi-factor authentication and discontinue using email, online services, or social media platforms that don’t enable the feature by default. You can use a two-factor authenticator app on your phone. You can also add a hardware security key to add an extra layer of protection to your online accounts. Enabling multi-factor authentication will make it nearly impossible for criminals to break into your accounts without stealing your phone or hardware key.
3. Protect Your Devices With Security Software
Installing security software such as a firewall and antivirus can help protect your devices from malware, trojans, DDoS, and phishing attacks. A firewall helps keep threat actors out of your computer, and antivirus software prevents viruses/malware from infecting your computer. Antivirus software can also detect and remove infections already present in your system. Make sure to set virus definition updates to automatic, which downloads the newest definitions in the background.
4. Enforce Regular Operating System & Software Updates
Set your devices to automatically download and install the latest operating system (OS) updates and security patches. All installed software must be running the latest updates straight from the developers. Running the latest updates ensures that your systems are patched for known and emerging vulnerabilities.
5. Use a VPN
Another critical tool in your defensive arsenal is using a virtual private network or VPN. A VPN creates a secure tunnel that encrypts the communication between your devices and the internet. VPN use is especially critical when you have no choice but to use public WiFi in a coffee shop or airport. Free WiFi is extremely vulnerable even when protected with a password because you’ll never know who else is logged in the network and snooping around. A VPN hides your real IP address and location, making it difficult to track you. Not even your ISP knows where you are or what you’re doing.
6. Practice Proper Online Hygiene
Proper online hygiene is simply a collection of do’s and don’ts when you’re online. Phishing attacks and scams like the “Nigerian Prince” scam or employment fraud still rely on people opening every single email they get.
- Never open unsolicited emails from strangers and companies that have no business communicating with you. If you don’t remember signing up for a website or blog or you never applied for a job, don’t bother opening any emails.
- When the email doesn’t mention you by name, don’t open it.
- If you do get an email from someone you’re expecting communication from, double-check the email address and check for inconsistencies in the message.
- Email warnings from social media, banks, and other services that ask for your login credentials and personal information are attempts to steal your data. Financial institutions or medical services will never ask for your details via email.
- Never click on a link or download a file from unsolicited email. Doing so could open up a website infected with malware or install malware on your system. Immediately run a security scan on your computer if you accidentally click on a link or download a file.
- When using a shared computer, use incognito mode or private browsing, so the browser doesn’t save anything about your session.
- Never use a shared or public computer for online banking or checking your email. You don’t know the security status of the device you are using. And if a key-logger or other type of fingerprinting software captures your login credentials, it’s game over.
- Try not to do any online banking when on public WiFi. Even when you’re using a VPN, and wait until you get to a secure access point.
- Force encrypted HTTPS connections in your browser by using an extension such as HTTPS Everywhere.
- Keep personal information out of social media and limit what you share (such as the street you grew up in, your pet’s name, or your mom’s maiden name). Criminals will find it easy to breach your accounts by posing as you. They can then request a password reset using basic security questions.
7. Watch Your Credit Report
Another tip to help you know how to keep your personal information safe online is to ensure that your credit report hasn’t been tampered with. The government requires these credit bureaus to provide people with a copy of their credit report once a year at no charge. For maximum coverage, you can stagger your credit checks every four months so you can cover a full year. If you discover something suspicious, file a dispute right away. You can even do a total lockdown of your credit if you feel you may be a victim of identity theft.
Knowing how to keep your personal information safe online can be difficult. You need to have a good and strong password for your various accounts. While I have discussed 7 key tips and tricks in this article, to sum up, here is a quick video to help you set a secure password!