For those of us who grew up with paper and pencil, this cyber age is a brave new world. All progress brings new challenges. Around here we have been reviewing and revamping our cybersecurity efforts.
You may think protecting your devices and your digital information isn’t worth the trouble until it is compromised or stolen. When it costs you dozens of hours on the phone, a few sleepless nights and several thousand dollars to get your credit and your equipment restored you will think differently.
You should create a video record of your household possessions for insurance recovery purposes. Experts suggest you also create an inventory of your digital assets. The inventory would include things like:
- Online banking, including bill pay, linked accounts, auto withdrawals.
- Retail sites where you make purchases.
- Mobile devices such as cellphones, laptops, tablets etc.
- Email accounts whether you use them or not.
- Social media profiles including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.
- Sites that contain music, photos and other personal information.
- Even your desktop computer.
Once you have your inventory, you should follow a few key steps to prevent identity theft. Nothing is foolproof, but a few precautions can go a long way to protect your data and identity.
- Protect your computers and devices with strong, up-to-date security software. This includes anti-virus, malware and encryption software. Be sure that any operating system updates are installed, too.
- Back up your information to the cloud. This makes it almost impossible for a ransom ware threat to harm you.
- Learn to spot spam and scams. Some phishing scams are easy to identify, but others can look very legitimate. The only sure protection is to never click on a link that has been sent to you. Instead of using the link provided, find the company’s website using a search engine. This way you will know you didn’t land on some mocked up fake site.
- Use strong passwords and routinely change them. Don’t use the same password everywhere. Experts say passwords should be over 10 characters, with upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use your personal information. Password managers (vaults) and two-factor authentication (2FA) are both best practices for password management.
- Monitor and review your credit scores. By law you have the right to a free credit report from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax each year. If you find activity you were not aware of, take immediate steps to have these terminated and investigated.
- Freeze your credit. You can thwart criminal activity by simply locking (freezing) your credit so that no new credit can be given without additional information and controls. There may be costs or other requirements.
- Use only reputable websites when making purchases. If you don’t know the reputation of a company from whom you want to purchase, do your homework.
- Identity thieves love stealing mail to find personal information. Pay your bills online.
- Be careful using public Wi-Fi and think twice before joining an unsecured network. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are tools that can help you shield yourself from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi networks.
Consistently applying these steps will help reduce the risks of having your identity stolen, and alert you instantly if such a problem arises.
The Patriot on Chestnut Street is a blog published periodically by Chestnut Street Advisors. The writers are members of the advisory team. Our goal is to give you wise guidance and valuable information that can help you live your life to the fullest. Chestnut Street is the address of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Prior to 1820, Chestnut Street was also America’s financial center. The Patriot on Chestnut Street is inspired by the wisdom, prudence and sound judgment of the founding fathers who helped guide the development of the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.