During a time when information can be shared freely and openly online and where big tech companies are behaving more than irresponsibly with our personal information, it is imperative that your financial information is protected. While this type of information exchange brings people together and makes life more efficient it can open up a tremendous number of threats to your privacy and security.

It can feel overwhelming to try to understand all that comes with technology and where your vulnerabilities may lay. There are several simple steps that you can take to help safeguard your most private information and financial data.

Know Where to Look

This number one cause of security breaches of user information is the user itself. Unfortunately, yes, that means that you are your number one threat. Having the knowledge of how to identify emails and phone calls that might be suspicious truly is your first line of defense.

If you receive an email or a phone call from someone claiming that your computer is running too slowly or that you need a software update you are likely about to have your computer information stolen. Typically, in these cases you are asked to visit a specific website and enter your computer’s admin credentials so that they can remotely connect to your machine. The rule of thumb is to never click on an unknown link provided in an email or provide private information over the phone to an unknown source. And NEVER let someone log in remotely to your computer unless you have hired them to fix something.

Your Equipment

What efforts do you currently make to protect your personal computing equipment from thieves? If you have a server for your business or home is it in a locked room or closet? If you carry your laptop and tablet, do you keep them in nondescript bags? People are less likely to rummage through a larger bag than they are to swipe a small bag holding only your electronics. When you are not using your phone, keep it in your pocket or purse. Phones are most often lost or stolen because they were left on the groceries store checkout or the table at the restaurant.

Setting up online tracking devices for your personal computing equipment can help you keep track of items if you do leave them behind or they are stolen. Using the Find My Iphone app or Prey anti-theft can make it as simple as logging in to your account to quickly see where your laptop, phone or tablet is on a map.

Complexity of Your Passwords and Secure Access

Did you know that the average adult has 34 password protected accounts? With that many to manage it comes as no surprise that people are using the same password with variations here and there to login to anywhere from Hulu to their banking institution. Despite the hassle it may be, it is important that you are diligent in having complex and diverse pass words for you accounts.

The easiest way to manage passwords is through a password management tool like are LastPass, KeePass and Keeper Security. These tools generate complex passwords and store them for you in one secure digital vault. You can set it up on your devices and browsers to remember logins for ease of use. But remember, if someone is able to access your computer, phone or tablet and the passwords are all remembered, then it is little assistance in protecting your information. The rule of thumb is to have completely different complex passwords (no fewer than 16 characters with a combination of upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols) for each and every online login you have. With the passwords management tools, you need to take a small amount of time to set it up the first time, but after that it is simple to manage.

Two-Factor Authentication

Always look for options and opportunities to use two-factor authentication. You have to have both something that you know as well as something that you physically have in your possession. Most common is the utilization of a smart phone. You can download a two factor authentication application which pings your phone with a security code before you are allowed to access the accounts you have setup using the application. These two factor authentication protocols create an exponential increase in the security of your data stored online.

Secure email usage

Email is the primary entry point into our lives but email is not a closed envelope. An email is the digital version of a postcard in terms of security and privacy. The largest threat to our email security is the ability for hackers to send emails that we then open and unleash a virus on our computer. The biggest danger with email is something called phishing. This is when someone creates a false front email and then sends it to a group of people or just one individual.

Clicking on a phishing email can open you up to getting a virus. Ransomware is a virus that locks up certain information on your computer and the hacker requires the payment of the ransom in order to unlock the data or they delete it after a certain period of time. Keep on the lookout for generic email introductions [Dear Sir or Madame], requesting of personal information, requesting an urgent response, requesting a financial transaction, or requesting opening an attachment.

Social Media and Your Privacy

We live in a time where we can communicate with friends new and old and family members who may live across the globe in an instant. We can see who is retiring, who is getting married and who just became a grandparent. We know what Mary had for lunch and what Bob did with his old college pals last night. With this amount of connectedness and information being shared, it comes as little surprise to us that that information is also being shared and analyzed for market research and business development by major companies or political affiliates.

This can feel a bit creepy, but alas it is the world in which we live. It is important, however, to understand that whatever you post, share, like or comment on lives in the ethers of the cloud for eternity. Knowing this, be certain that you take a moment to consider that when you are communicating on Social Media or elsewhere online.

If you utilize the tips and tricks mentioned above, you should be in a better position when it comes to securing your data. As always, if you have other questions about data security and how to better manage your online accounts, please contact us for additional resources that can help you get organized and plan ahead.