5 Top Security Tips to Instantly Protect Your Identity from Harm

by | Nov 9, 2020 | Auto & Home

As most of us are aware, cybercriminals never take a day off. They are increasingly going after nearly everyone and everything they can. This means community groups, schools, businesses, institutions, technology systems, municipal governments, and of course, individual people are potential targets.

Cybercrime is a concern for all of us, so it’s important to stay ahead of the game as much as possible. It is extremely important for all of us to learn the basics of how to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and any group or organization we are a part of. Check out our suggestions for staying Cyber-Secure and Safe:

1. Keep Your Information & Technology Devices Up to Date

Some of you might remember the 2017 Equifax credit bureau attack, which exposed the financial information of nearly nearly 150 million Americans. Tens of thousands of British and Canadian citizens were also affected, as well. The findings of this attack pointed to something shocking - the Equifax I.T. department was not updating their servers in a timely fashion, which means this attack could have been easily avoided, had they properly managed their equipment and their software.

Emerging vulnerabilities occur almost daily, so keeping software, operating systems and hardware updated can protect you and all of the technology you use against harm. If you are not tech savvy or you are away from your computer frequently, you can turn on automatic updates, which can reduce risk. Also, be sure to install software to scan your system for viruses and malware, to catch anything that might get through. One of the best software applications for the PC is Microsoft Defender Antivirus. It is a free installation and is one of the safest programs available. Mac systems it’s own built-in software, which works very well.

2. Use Strong, Complex Passwords

If you are currently using passwords like “admin” or “123456” or “password,” just stop doing that right now - this instant! Hackers can crack those passwords in virtually seconds, so be sure to choose passwords that are at least 10 to 15 characters long. Add numbers, punctuation and/or symbols for complexity.  Also, make sure to change any default passwords set by manufacturer. For example, Wi-Fi routers or home security devices are all factory pre-set, so those passwords should be changed immediately.  It’s also a good idea to create a password management list for yourself. You can create one in Microsoft Word, Excel, or your own favorite document program and save it in an encrypted file on your computer. There are also password management services available, but be sure to investigate them before signing up. Some of them have also been breached by hackers, so it’s better to keep your own records if possible.

3. Enable Multi-step Verification When Possible

In many situations, websites are requiring users to not only provide a strong password but also an additional, separate code from an app, text message or email message when logging in. It is an extra step, and it’s not perfect, but it does work and it makes it much harder for hackers to break into your accounts. This is especially important for critical logins such as bank and credit card accounts. You might also consider getting a physical digital key that can connect with your computer or smartphone as an even more advanced level of protection, if need be.

4. Back Up & Encrypt Your Most Important Data

Did you know?  You can encrypt the data that’s stored on your smartphone and computer!

Most computer files can simply be right-mouse clicked and then the pop-down menu “encrypt” will be available to you for easy selection. And today, most cell phones have something known as a SSE Universal Encryption app on them. Simply activate the app and follow the directions. If hackers try to access your files such as your address book or maybe financial information, all they will get is gibberish. If you require more assistance with this feature contact your I.T. expert or your cell phone provider for assistance.

For data that’s crucial, like medical information, or irreplaceable, like family photos, it’s important to keep copies. These backups should ideally be duplicated as well, with one stored locally on an external hard drive only periodically connected to your primary computer, and one remote, such as in a cloud storage system or a separate computer.

5. The Dangers of Public Wi-Fi

When using public Wi-Fi, anyone nearby who is connected to the same network (who is tech savvy) can listen in on what your computer is sending and receiving across the internet. You can use free encryption browsers like Tor, Epic, SRWare Iron, or Comodo Dragon to encrypt your traffic and camouflage what you’re doing online. These were built specifically for public internet file transfer protection.

Search engines like DuckDuckGo do not track users or their searches on computers, phones or tablets, and firewall software built into both Windows and Mac OS can help stop viruses and worms from making their way into your systems. You can also use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt all your internet traffic, in addition to what goes through your browser. Free and paid VPN options are available. Examples of VPNs are apps such as iTunes, Netflix, Spotify and others, which have built-in protections, making it harder for hackers to crack.

Additional Tips

To protect yourself against data breaches at places where your information is stored, you should consider freezing your credit, which blocks anyone from applying for credit in your name without your personal permission. Bureaus such as Experian and companies like LifeLock offer these services. If you have already been a victim of fraud or identity theft, it is a good idea to keep a fraud alert service connected to your credit profile.

You can also check with government entities such as Ready.Gov and/or CISA.Gov

Unfortunately, no person, organization, device, or computer can ever be 100% secure. There is always someone out there who can break into even the most protected systems. But by taking these steps, you can make it less likely that you will become their next victim.

In conclusion, be aware of the technology around you, and be proactive in protecting yourself and your loved ones against harm. Don’t be afraid to question everything!  Investigate anything you do not understand. Make phone calls, connect with friends or loved ones who are tech savvy, or hire a technology helper to assist you. There is always someone who is legitimately happy to help.

At United Agencies, we have worked hard to become a helpful resource to our clients. Please don’t hesitate to Contact Us if you want to talk about protecting your home, family or auto. Our team is happy to assist you!

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