Identity theft and data security breaches are continuously in the news. There is so much information out there it can scare the “Average Joe” into doing away with their smart devices and resorting back to pen and paper.

Cybercriminal activity is one of the biggest challenges that humanity will face in the next two decades. Cyber attacks are the fastest growing crime globally, and they are increasing in size, sophistication, and cost[i]. While this can be scary on a substantial scale, it is important to understand there are easy things you can do to protect your digital privacy and you don’t need a master’s degree in Informational Technology to execute these either.

Here are 5 quick and easy tips you can execute yourself to protect your confidential digital information:

1. Protect your Passwords

If I have said it once, I will say it a million times – you should never use “Password” (or any variation of it) as your password. While it is tempting to use the same password for different sites and accounts, this is a definite no-no. Instead, use sophisticated passwords or phrases. Make these hard to guess and at least 15 characters long, using a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Try to use phrases that are long enough to be secure but also easy to remember, such as “IGottMarriedin2011*.”  Notice that “got” is spelled wrong. If you have a hard time remembering all your various passwords for applications in your life, use a Password Vault such as LastPass or 1Password to help you stay organized. Also, never save passwords to any sites or online.

2. Apply Software Updates

Some operating systems will run updates automatically, but others may not. Always check your settings and apply the suggested updates to your computers, smartphones, and tablets. Software companies often release updates that patch bugs and vulnerabilities when they are discovered and push them out to consumers. If your software is operating on old versions, there is a higher risk there are security flaws that can leave you susceptible to a data or security breach.

3. Use Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)

As good practice, you should always lock your devices by requiring a password or passcode to get into them. In addition to this, consider using Multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA is a process of verifying your identity using at least two independent factors including what a person knows, possesses and/or physical attributes. The primary benefit of this authentication is that it provides additional security by offering more layers of required identification. More and more devices and applications are offering MFA such as biometrics in the form of face recognition or fingerprint scans; passcodes or PINS. Though it is an extra step, it can reduce the risk of someone accessing your data.

4. Turn Off Lock-Screen Notifications

As we are running from one activity to another, it is convenient to see the latest text or email string come through our devices. But take note, you might not be the only one that is glancing at this information; prying eyes could be looking over your shoulder. Turning off the lock-screen notifications and text previews on your smartphone devices is a simple way to hide personal information. This is an easy change you can make under your device’s settings.

5. Safeguard Your Use of Public Wi-Fi

Our home environments are typically set up with a secure firewall and the internet is easy to connect to. When you venture out of these familiar settings though, it’s a different story. A public Wi-Fi network is characteristically less secure because you don’t know who set it up or who else is connected to it. I would suggest making it a habit to use your personal hotspot on your phone to join a secure Wi-Fi. In the event that is not possible, some good rules to follow are:

  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your devices
  • Limit AirDrop and File Sharing
  • Stick with HTTPS
  • Be Aware of Your Surroundings

The cyber-world can be an intimidating place, but it important to always be vigilant about your digital data and ensuring you are doing what you can to keep your information safe.

[i] According to the Cisco/Cybersecurity Ventures 2019 Cybersecurity Almanac, https://cybersecurityventures.com/cybersecurity-almanac-2019/

Colleen Wysong is the Director of Operations and oversees business procedures, technology, and Aspyre’s compliance standards. She develops, maintains and communicates the firm’s information processes and data management systems. She works to ensure the firm is meeting quality client service and performance targets as well as facilitating the human resource policies and procedures. For help with your specific situation contact Colleen Wysong at cwysong@aspyrewealth.com, (913) 345-1881 or visit our website at AspyreWealth.com. We help successful people Master What’s Next® – whatever phase of life they are in.

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

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