October 2017 marks the 14th annual National Cyber Security Month, making October the perfect time to take a look at your online habits to make sure you are not exposing your sensitive personal information unnecessarily.
How Careful Are You Online?
In the early days of the internet, most consumers were wary of entering personal information on computer forms and were cautious about using credit cards for online purchases. However, many of us have become complacent about our cyber security. We shop at all kinds of sites, connect to WiFi wherever we are, and use easy-to-remember passwords. These bad habits could be putting our confidential information at risk.
Tips to Protect Your Identity
The Office of Homeland Security, along with the National Cyber Security Alliance, wants citizens to do their part to protect themselves and others online. While you may not be able to stop a criminal from stealing your information from a third party, you can do plenty to make sure they can’t steal it from you. This October, take a few minutes to do the following to shore up your online protections:
Update security software. Make sure you have the latest versions of your security software, web browser, and operating system and that they are all set to update automatically, if that is an option. This is your best defense against viruses and malware.
Change passwords. Use a different password for every one of your accounts and make it complicated—using a sentence that is at least 12 characters long is a good idea. If other authentication tools, such as biometrics or security keys, are available, use them. Write down your passwords and store them in a safe place—or use a password storage app.
Connect cautiously. Be careful about following links in social media or online ads. When using a WiFi hotspot or other public WiFi, be careful about the business you conduct. Remember that others may be able to access your information when you are on a public connection. Make sure your shopping site web addresses begin with “https” or “shttp” (the “s” stands for “secure”); never shop on an “http” site.
Be smart. Even though being online is second nature these days, you still have to be smart about what you click and pay attention to news about viruses and data breaches. Be proactive about cybersecurity just like you are about your personal safety.
Freeze your credit. If you have serious concerns about ID theft consider a "credit freeze" request to the credit reporting agencies. There may be a charge, but it prevents any new accounts from being opened in your name. You can request a temporary lift for a particular creditor you want to deal with.
Check Your Credit Reports
We have said it before and we will say it again, take advantage of your free annual credit reports to make sure you have not already been robbed of your personal information. If there is a problem with your credit report and you have trouble with the credit reporting agency, contact us with your legal questions.