Have you ever been the victim of cybercrime or identity theft?
Larry Ponemon, head of the Ponemon Institute, an independent research group focused on privacy, data protection, and information security policy, tells CNN:
“If you’re not a data breach victim, you’re not paying attention.”
Cybercrime is happening all the time, whether you realize you’re a victim or not.
See, certain hackers can drain your bank account or make fraudulent purchases on your stolen credit cards, which is easy to spot. But other more sophisticated hackers have the ability to collect your private data, breach major companies, steal your identity, and get you in a mess of financial trouble.
Since most of us are still going to shop online—and we’re definitely not going back to brick-and-mortar banking—it’s crucial to know how to protect your most private information.
Sure, you may already have super strong passwords, but that’s not enough anymore. Take these 5 security measures today if you want to keep your data secure online.
Actually Do Those Annoying Updates
We get it; updates can be kind of a pain.
You’re always right in the middle of a big presentation or lecture when you see the pop-up notification that your laptop needs an update (and a subsequent restart to seal the deal).
Remind me to install this update later, you immediately command your computer.
But that’s a very bad idea. Now the chance of you actually completing those updates is pretty close to nil.
Why does this matter?
Security updates and patches are the result of identified vulnerabilities. It’s the only way developers and engineers can protect your computer, browser, online apps, etc., from a known security issue or gap in coverage.
Hackers are constantly learning new ways to crack into software and secure websites. When they know about these holes, it’s like having a big, light-up sign telling them that your computer’s open and vulnerable.
Remember, cyber thieves are just like burglars in real life; they’re always looking over their shoulder to get in and out as fast as they can without being seen. You’re making it easy for them when you don’t update to the latest security measures.
To avoid an update at the wrong time, schedule automatic updates for your computer at specific times overnight.
As Matthew Pascucci, Cyber Security Engineer and Privacy Advocate, says:
“Patch all third party applications (I.E Java and Flash). These… are normally so vulnerable that you could compromise your workstation just by visiting an infected website or link.”
Stay on Top of Your Financial Information
Most of us check our bank and credit card statements every month. However, if an attack happened on the fourth of the month, waiting over 20 days to address the situation may not earn you the most favorable outcome.
In a perfect world you’d get in the habit of checking your accounts every day, although it can definitely be a time-zapper.
It’s much more manageable to get in the habit of checking your accounts at least once a week.
Scan your statements for purchases that seem foreign or unfamiliar to you and alert your bank or credit card company if something seems amiss.
If you’re the forgetful type, set up notifications and alerts to keep yourself in the loop.
Let’s say your credit card was used for an online purchase that you didn’t make. Creating an alert that emails or texts you every time your card is not present for a transaction, for example, is a surefire way to stay on top of your transactions automatically.
You can even program these to ask for validation when your card is used for purchases over a set dollar amount—this way you’ll always know exactly what’s being charged and when the transaction occurred in real time.
Keep in mind that it’s a lot easier to resolve unauthorized purchases the sooner you detect them.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions About Your Data
If it feels as if every business, site, or social network wants to save your most personal details or credit card information, you’re not wrong.
This stuff is like gold to them.
Your information could be sold to the highest bidder, for nefarious or just inconvenient purposes (aka annoying telemarketer calls).
As the Federal Trade Commission advises, when someone asks you to share secure information, ask:
- why they need it
- how it will be used
- how they will protect it
- what happens if you don’t share it
The same thing goes for privacy policies.
Yeah, it can be a pain to read them, but you should always know what’s going on with your data. You always want to know what information is being collected and with whom it’s being shared.
Don’t forget that downloading free apps, browser extensions, etc. are never really free. These third-party companies have the ability to install potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) like adware, malware, or other hidden information-gathering. Read the fine print to avoid this.
Also think about the permissions you’re granting specific apps on your devices. For example, does it make sense for your emoticon app to have permission to your location, address book, camera, etc.? Think about what you’re allowing.
Hackers Love TMI
When you overshare information on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, you’re creating a map to your life for every hacker on the planet.
A total stranger performing a simple, innocent Google search will probably know your full name, birthday, general address, phone number, employer, favorite band/movie/sports team/pet, etc., and so on.
This makes it easy for hackers to create a real persona for identity theft. The more someone knows about you, the easier it is to impersonate you.
That’s why it’s good to have a limited number of people accessing your social media sites. We like to think 10 is a good number.
On top of this, most of us use triggers from real life as passwords and answers to security responses. How are your security questions going to be difficult to answer if the answers are online for everyone to see?
Here’s an easy tip courtesy of Time: When you’re asked to fill out personal security questions, create more protection for yourself by answering with a lie.
Anyone who wants to cause you harm will have no trouble finding your real information, but it’s going to take psychic powers to discover answers you completely made up.
Keep a protected file with your passwords and security answers for each of your accounts and store them on a password-protected flash drive.
Consider a VPN
That ultra sleek Chromebook allows you to take your work on-the-go, but checking on client invoices and conducting your work banking on hotel or coffee shop Wifi is super dangerous.
If you’re always traveling and working in unconventional offices, consider investing in a virtual private network, or VPN.
“VPNs serve as an encrypted tunnel that prevents bad guys from getting between you and the Internet in order to steal your login credentials or other sensitive information,” says Ian Paul for PC World.
Look for a VPN that doesn’t track or log your internet behavior for total anonymity.
Online banking, shopping, and financial transactions are a normal part of our days in the new digital world. So maybe that’s why most of us feel so comfortable handing over our email addresses, credit cards, and personal information.
Since we can’t stop an attack, the best measures we can take are defensive ones. Make it harder for hackers to steal from you and your data may just stay secure another day.