The New Year is a time when many of us make resolutions to make a fresh start. Some resolutions focus on making healthier lifestyle choices, dedicating more time to loved ones, and even taking steps to become financially secure. What you may not realize is that protecting your privacy is just as important. You see, scammers, hackers, and con artists don’t take a break. They are actively trying to steal personal and financial information to commit fraud. As the New Year rolls around, take heed and pay attention to these tips to help protect your information.
Securing Your Devices
Your software, internet browser, and operating system should be kept up-to-date. Check regularly for software updates or set your system to automatically update when new releases become available. This helps protect from security threats. If you need help, check the developer’s website.
Make sure to check out your antivirus or firewall programs, operating system software (e.g., Windows, Apple OS, or Chrome), internet browsers, and apps.
Use Strong Passwords
Using strong passwords makes it harder for hackers to break into your accounts. Try these steps to secure your password:
- Make your password 12 characters or more.
- Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Avoid using common words or phrases.
- Don’t reuse passwords.
- Turn on multi-factor authentication, if possible.
- Choose security questions only you know the answer to. Even consider using nonsense answers that scammers wouldn’t guess.
- Utilize a reputable password manager to store and keep track of your passwords.
- If there is a breach, change your password immediately.
Backing Up Your Data
Computer viruses, crashes, and hacks can wipe out your information. To maintain access to your information, save your files to an external storage device or on a cloud storage service. Regularly back up your information (consider doing this weekly) so you don’t lose important data such as photos, documents, and files.
Your information is only as secure as the place you store it. Before choosing a service, do your research. If you’re looking for cloud storage, it’s important to know what level of privacy or security the service offers. When considering external storage devices, such as USB flash drives and external hard drives, think about what you want to store; how much data you have to store; how long you want to store information; and how quickly you need to be able to access your data.
Protecting Your Home Wi-Fi Network
Your router plays a key role in keeping your Wi-Fi network, devices, and accounts secure. The router connects your devices to the internet. If a device is infected with malware, it can spread to other connected devices. Make your router more secure by following these tips:
- Use password protection. If your router has a preset password, make sure to change it. Check both the Wi-Fi network password and the router admin password. Select a unique password to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your network. If a hacker gains access to your routers admin settings they can change your Wi-Fi password and undo any security guards you have set up. Visit the router manufacturer’s website or contact the manufacturer for instructions on changing your passwords.
- Encrypt your network. Encryption scrambles your information. Update your router settings to either WPA3 Personal or WPA2 Personal. The older WPA and WEP are outdated and not secure. If you don’t see WPA3 or WPA2 settings, update your router software. If they are still unavailable, consider upgrading your router.
- Update your router. Check the manufacturer’s website to see if newer software versions are available for download.
- Turn off features such as “remote management”, WPS, and Universal Plug and Play. While these features add convenience, they can make your network less secure.
- Consider setting up a guest network. This limits who has access to your primary Wi-Fi password and provides some protections in case a guest’s device unknowingly has malware.
- Remember to log out of your administrator account. After changing your settings, logout as administrator so hackers can’t easily get into your devices or network.
- Secure your devices. Some ways to protect your device include locking your device, only downloading apps from trustworthy sources, keeping the device’s OS up-to-date, installing anti-virus software, and disabling or disconnecting devices you don’t use.
Using Public Wi-Fi
When using public Wi-Fi, it’s best to assume it’s not secure. Other users on the network can see what you see also. Scammers can use hacking tools to hijack your session and login as you. They can gain access to your personal private information and login credentials to commit identity theft and fraud. Also, you may be sharing your data with companies providing public Wi-Fi networks.
Avoid online shopping, banking, or other sensitive transactions while on public networks. Some other tips include:
- Only login or send personal information on sites that you know are fully encrypted. Look for “https” in the website’s URL to make sure it’s encrypted.
- Log out of your account when you are finished using it.
- Pay attention to any alerts or warnings that malware may be present.
- Change your device settings so it doesn’t auto connect to nearby Wi-Fi networks.
- Install browser add-ons/plug-ins to help direct your browser to encrypted sites.
- You can use your mobile data instead of public Wi-Fi so that your information is encrypted.
- Consider using a virtual private network, or VPN.
- Stay away from scam websites. Scammers encrypt their websites also so it’s best practice to always research the website.
Peer-to-peer file sharing programs allow users access to free music and videos, but this can place your security at risk. Strangers may be able to see and share your files; the program may record or share information and files you may not be aware of; or you can unknowingly download pirated or copyrighted material, pornography, or malware.
Before using these programs or access downloaded files, allow your security software to scan for potentially harmful data. If the program asks you to disable or change the settings of your firewall, it can weaken your device’s security.
Stopping fraud is everyone’s job. By sharing information with others, especially seniors and younger online users, you can help them keep their information safe and avoid fraud. Check out some of the related helpful topics below for more security tips, advice, and information. And remember to follow Business Consumer Alliance on Facebook for additional consumer news, scam alerts, and more.
What to Do After a Data Breach
Using Public Wi-Fi More Safely
Protect Your Home Devices from Cyber Attacks with a Simple Task
6 Ways to Secure Your Wireless Network
Being Smart With Your Smartphone
What You Should Know About Mobile Apps