At the beginning of the year, most of us made New Year resolutions related to improving our personal and professional goals. Signing up for gym membership, quitting smoking, or getting that professional license are certainly worthy resolutions.
But this year, you should also make resolutions to better protect yourself from scammers and criminals. Cyber criminals and hackers are developing more sophisticated methods to steal your personal information and data. If you don’t take the necessary precautions or implement the necessary security measures, you could easily have your bank account wiped out or become a victim of identity theft!
Here are five tips to protect your personal data and information in 2014:
1) Install Antivirus/Antimalware on all your devices and Keep them up to date
Hackers and criminals are constantly developing and releasing new viruses and malware. If your device is infected with a malware, criminals could easily steal your usernames and passwords to your bank accounts as well as other sensitive information on your computer.
To prevent computer worms, viruses, Trojan horses, keyloggers, and other forms of malware from infecting your computer, it’s important that you keep your antivirus and anti-malware programs up to date with the latest definitions.
2) Protect your personal information on social media sites
Since Facebook’s entire business model is based on your leveraging your personal information, it’s best to not over share your personal information on Facebook and other social media sites.
Immediately delete information such as your address, phone numbers, emails, the year of your birth, and other sensitive information from your social media or forum profiles.
Next, go over your friends’ list and remove people that you don’t know personally or trust.
Finally, remember to never reveal or post any sensitive and private information on wall postings, messages, or feeds.
3) Follow These Password Security Rules
Following secure password best practices is one of the best ways to prevent hackers and criminals from stealing your information. Weak password practices such as using names of your pet or your high school or words that can be found in the dictionary can be cracked within seconds! Follow the tips below to create a strong and secure password.
- Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers to create your password.
- Use minimum of 8 characters. Passwords with 12-14 characters are ideal.
- Do not use the same password for multiple accounts. In addition, you should create super strong passwords for your financial and banking accounts.
- Store your passwords in a secure place. Do not store your passwords in your computer or email. You can use an encrypted USB drive to store your password or write the password hints on a note paper and keep them in your wallet.
4) Secure the Data on Your Mobile Device
Mobile devices are as powerful as a computer. As our lives are becoming more dependent on our mobile devices, we are also storing lots of personal and sensitive information on our mobile devices. Thus, it’s essential for you to secure the information and data on your mobile device.
- Use a strong password to lock/unlock your mobile device
- Ensure that your anti-malware software, apps, and OS are up to date – Anytime you are connected to the Internet, you are exposed to malware and other online threats.
- Avoid downloading apps from unknown sources – Some of the apps are malicious and can infect your device with malware. Do your research and make sure you download it from a trusted source.
5) Watch Out for Social Engineering
Criminals know that humans can be emotional and naïve. As such, one of the most common tactics criminals use to steal confidential information is social engineering.
Social engineering is the use of psychological tactics to manipulate people into revealing confidential or sensitive information and data through email messages, chatting, social media, or the telephone. Majority of the times, criminals are after users’ passwords or bank information.
To avoid becoming a victim, be wary when someone on the phone, someone you met on a dating site or on social media sites, or on email asking you to reveal or confirm your personal or financial information. Also, avoid clicking on suspicious email links or popup banners.
6) Always Use a VPN Service When Connecting to an Unsecured Public Network
If you are away from home or work and need to connect to the Internet at public WiFi hotspots, be sure to use a VPN service. Public networks are coffee shops, airports, and hotels are inherently not secure.
Hackers nearly could easily steal your usernames, passwords, and other sensitive information.
A VPN service protects your privacy and secures your internet communications. This means that all the traffic going in and out of your device is encrypted, protecting your data and information from hackers.