As Web-based engagement for business and personal reasons becomes more prevalent, the risk for a breach to your privacy and data security increases. Not a month goes by without us hearing about a privacy breach compromising people’s financial identity, and the Federal Trade Commission estimates that at least 11 million people are the victims of identity theft every single year. More and more, identity theft is happening in a virtual realm as a result of careless personal habits as it relates to data security. Every minute of the day, thousands of Americans are exposed to phishing, spyware, malware, and other types of malicious Internet activity aimed at stealing their identity to use mainly for financial fraud. It just takes one moment of carelessness to place you or your loved ones in a vulnerable position that may take years and many hours of hard work to correct.
Data security crimes are so common and so disruptive that many companies offer insurance to protect individuals from the aftermath of having their identity or other important documents stolen digitally. Protecting your online data goes beyond protecting your identity. Many people store a myriad of personal documents on the cloud and maintain ongoing conversations via text or email that may contain information that should be kept private. If you are concerned about online data safety, then take into account the following best practices to help you keep your personal and professional data from falling into the wrong hands.
According to David Perera, a journalist focused on tech and trends, much of what we are told about password security is difficult to implement and not necessarily aligned with the way we operate in our daily lives. For most of us, having a different password for each account is unrealistic, given that the average person interacts with over 100 password-secured websites. It absolutely makes sense, in theory, to have complex passwords with no association with our names, addresses, or commonly known personal information. We should also refrain from the most common and most damaging mistake of using standard passwords such as “123456” and “password.” (Take a look at this article on CBS, highlighting the 25 most popular passwords for 2013.) But how can you keep track of so many passwords while relying on memory and making sure your passwords are secure? A great alternative is to think about passwords in tiers. That is, the security level needed for each website or environment determines the type of password you are likely to use. On sensitive environments such as bank accounts or trading accounts, you may want to go all the way, and refrain from patterns or reusing common words or passwords. As for other less important websites that require a password, you can tier it by resorting to passwords that are still complex and unique, and make use of special characters that you are still able to recall.
Mobile-device use is on the rise, and with it comes the increased risk of having a data-security breach. When it comes to your mobile devices, caution and mindfulness are essential to keep your personal information safe. Let’s start with the basics. More than 50 percent of data-connected cell phone users don’t use a password on their device, making it extremely vulnerable should the device be lost or stolen. Another habit that puts your personal data at risk is having your cell phone or mobile device set to auto-connect when it finds an open wireless network. Finally, if you are engaging with a variety of websites and apps, then it is very important that you verify the authenticity of a website and make sure the portal is secure (the URL should read https instead of http). When downloading apps, carefully review the data each app wishes to have permissions for. Many apps are highly intrusive of your privacy, asking for ongoing access to all manner of communications taking place from your device, and even taking the liberty to post on your behalf on many social platforms, such as Facebook.
Free WiFi Could Prove Costly
If you are constantly on the road or in a remote office (some call it Starbucks), then you need to always be on the alert and make careful decisions when logging into networks outside your home or office. Hot spots are well known sources of cybercrime. There are several ways hackers can steal your information from a hot spot, from installing a free rogue hot spot served directly from their computer where they have full access and visibility to all your data, to using special software to see all your activity, even when you are in a “trusted” public Wi-Fi spot. If you are using a hot spot for work, then always use a layer of encryption by using a VPN. In general, public hot spots provided by companies such as AT&T are not encrypted, putting all your communications at risk.
Two-Factor Password Authentication Matters
With thousands of passwords being compromised every day by hackers and cybercriminals stealing, cracking, phishing, guessing, buying, keylogging, sniffing, and capturing, not having two-factor authentication with your most sensitive accounts is literally a crime against yourself. Two-factor authentication combines something you know with something you have, disarming anybody that attempts to access your information by having only your password but not your authentication device. Two-factor authentication can be managed by a FOB or digital token that provides the user a one-time password, or via a message sent to a mobile device. Virtual Private Network access, personal and company emails and bank accounts, as well as access to your mobile computer can benefit greatly from two-factor authentication. Many free email providers, such as Gmail, already provide free two-factor authentication via your mobile. If you have not yet activated yours, then don’t delay. Data breaches where identity is compromised ends up costing Americans an average of $365 to resolve.
Consider a Digital Safe
With so many passwords to keep, which are likely to constantly change, having a means of centralization of your most important passwords and documents is no longer a nice- to-have. Data access should not be just secure; it should also be transferable to those you trust the most when you are unable to access it, due to illness or after you pass away. A well-designed digital safe gives you the convenience of centralization, the peace of mind of transferability, and the confidence that all the documents that really matter are secured in a cloud-based environment where they are unlikely to he hacked or lost due to device failure.