With so much information going digital, there are many security risks associated with using your computer, your phone, or other smart devices. Hackers can target your personal bank information, passwords, files and more, in the hope of stealing your money or your identity. Ensuring your digital information remains private and secure is an important part of you and your family’s security.
Your digital information resides in or passes through many devices and services, including:
To protect yourself from theft and fraud, it’s important to plan ahead and take basic safety precautions. Here are Kuna’s tips for keeping your sensitive information secure online:
Use Strong Passwords
Always enable password protection on all your accounts and devices. Strong passwords are your first line of defense against hackers and other unauthorized users. Simple passwords are vulnerable to dictionary attacks, which are programs that try using every word in the dictionary to penetrate accounts. Mobile devices should be set to automatically lock if they are not being used. Read our tips for creating a strong password for more information.
Take Care on Public Networks
Public networks need to be used with some suspicion, as they tend to have weaker security settings than private networks. Aside from having your firewall always enabled, when connecting to a public network, ensure to select the Public Network option if you are on Windows. The Public Network option limits what kind of information on your computer is shared with the network. If you are on a Mac, go to System Preferences, then Sharing, and turn off any preferences that will leave you vulnerable. For extra security, turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on your mobile devices.
Minimize Your Use of Public Computers and Public Devices
Avoid accessing your personal or business accounts on pubic computers, or other connected devices. You don’t know who may be snooping or looking over your shoulder. If it’s absolutely necessary to use a public machine, make sure the browser is not set to remember passwords or create cookies. Be sure to clear all browsing information and log out from your accounts.
Use Data Encryption
Encryption software protects your data by requiring a password for access. This is especially useful when a data storage device, such as a hard disk or flash drive, is missing. Try encryption with the GFI top 24 free tools for data encryption.
Use Different Email Addresses and Passwords for Each Online Account
Robin Wilton of The Internet Society recommends “fracturing” your digital identity. Consider using different email addresses, browsers, credit cards, and maybe even devices, for different web activities (like work versus online shopping) to make it more difficult to collect one cohesive data set about you.
Employ Antivirus Software and a Firewall
Malware (malicious software from websites, files and email) can infect computers and mobile devices. Minimize your risk of infection by not opening emails or attachments from senders you don’t know, and by staying away from suspicious websites. Protect yourself by installing antivirus and firewall programs to actively protect your machines and devices from online attack.
Be Wary on Social Media
Social media is a new frontier for unscrupulous individuals and groups to gain information from unsuspecting people. Stay safe by reading our Social Media Primer for Personal, Family and Home Safety.
Secure Your Wi-Fi Network
Your Wi-Fi network can become a gateway for crooks to access all connected Internet devices. We listed tips such as security protocols for routers and more in our post about How to Secure Your Home Wireless Network.
Back Up All Data Regularly
Mobile device memory and disk drives can get corrupted or fail. This can lead to catastrophic data losses ranging from personal, work and school files, all the way to precious memories in the form of your pictures. To prevent data loss, create backups of your important files on multiple devices. External hard drives often come with backup tools to create a mirror of the source drive, or you can opt to copy only your most important files. Cloud services such as Dropbox are another great way to establish backups.
Enable Mobile Device Location and Management
In the event of a misplaced or stolen mobile device, services like Android Device Manager or iCloud allow for device location or, if needed, the ability to wipe all your data remotely. Make sure you enable the appropriate feature for your devices.
Don’t Share Passwords
Keep passwords to yourself. You might be passing off a username and password to someone you trust, but someone could be eavesdropping, or that piece of paper could be misplaced. Be wary of people asking for personal information, whether its on the phone, online or in person. Hackers regularly break into email and social media accounts and send messages to all contacts, posing as someone you know and requesting sensitive information.
Wipe Your Old Devices
You may decide to sell or donate your old phone, tablet or PCs before upgrading. Before disposing of any machine or device with digital storage, always do a full reset or reformat. This removes all your personal information and files from the device. Always double check and verify that everything has been wiped clean.
Give yourself peace of mind by keeping your information secure. Share this information with your family and friends, because online safety is everyone’s responsibility. If you have a digital safety tip to share, let us know in the comments below.
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