In 2015, cyber security came into the spotlight when more than 17 million American records were exposed to cyber-attacks, according to the Identity Theft Research Center.
The worst attack included the breach of the Office of Personnel Management, which exposed the personal information of 21.5 million people. Unfortunately, experts believe 2016 won’t be any better, so the time to take security seriously is now. Follow these 5 simple, everyday best practices to minimize the risk of your identity and information being compromised this year.
1) Backup Your Files
Backing up your files is one of those things most people put off – until it’s too late. Don’t wait until your mobile device is stolen or your computer is fried.
Many of today’s backup solutions can make the process easy and painless. It’s important to note these backup solutions are for personal use, not business. Learn more about data backup solutions for business on our website.
For important files, it’s best to save at least three copies in two different formats, with one of those copies stored off-site.
For example, save one copy of the file where you can quickly retrieve it (i.e. your computer or phone), save another in a secure, cloud based backup system and save a third copy to an external hard drive.
2) Stop Reusing Passwords
Yes, you’ve heard this one before. But have actually followed this advice? In the past, you may have used the same generic password for all your profiles, due to the hassle of keeping track of too many passwords.
But using the same password for every account puts your entire online presence at risk. All a hacker needs to do is guess one password correctly, and they have access to all your online accounts – especially if you have a go-to username you always use.
It’s best to create passwords that contain numbers, lower and capital letters and symbols. You can use a random password generator to come up with a unique combination or use these password management apps to remember and securely store all your passwords – so you don’t have to!
Want to know how secure your password REALLY is?
Plug your password into this tool and it will tell you how quickly a hacker could crack it.
3) Frequently Check Your Privacy Settings
Many people make the mistake of assuming their privacy settings will remain in place no matter what. But ultimately, technology is in a constant state of change. When a social network undergoes a major update, your privacy settings may also change.
What this means, is your private profile suddenly could be public for anyone to view. For this reason, it’s a good idea to make a habit of checking your privacy settings about once a month.
Start by Googling your name (and state/city if needed) and see what comes up. Click on your profile and you’ll see what information is public. If changes are needed, learn how to hide your profile again.
4) E-Cycle Your Electronics
Throwing electronics in the trash is not only potentially hazardous for the environment, but it’s dangerous for YOU since old tech can retain important information. Anyone could grab your computer from the curb and get access to sensitive information you thought you erased from the computer.
Not sure how to e-cycle? Find resources for e-cycling your electronics here.
5) Use Secure Wi-Fi Networks
Free, open Wi-Fi networks are everywhere. You might be tempted to connect to the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, a bookstore, or your favorite casual restaurant. Connecting to these organizations’ Wi-Fi and logging onto any website with your private information is risky.
As a rule, you should never conduct online banking or make purchases through a public Wi-Fi network. Ever. The chance of your computer being hacked far exceeds the chance of your home being burglarized.
This is a big business, so it’s best to play it safe and follow these best practices.
- Change your mobile device settings so you don’t automatically log onto Wi-Fi hotspots.
- If you have the option of connecting to a secure or non-secure Wi-Fi network, always choose the secure network, even if you have to pay for it.
- Be sure you are connecting to the right network. In large, public places like the airport, there are many different Wi-Fi networks available – making this location a prime target for hackers. When in doubt, ask the proprietor.
Bonus Tip: Organize Your Inbox
Chances are, there are a handful (or more) of lingering emails in your inbox that you still haven’t dealt with over the holiday break.
Emails accumulate quickly and if you don’t have a solid technique to manage your inbox, you’ll start the year off feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.
Decluttering your inbox not only takes a huge weight off your shoulders but it also helps you become more productive in your personal and professional life.
Productivity guru Merlin Mann developed the “Inbox Zero” approach, which involves rigorous email management with a focus on keeping the inbox empty or almost empty at all times. Mann believes that because time and attention are limited, when an inbox is confused with a “to do” list, productivity suffers. Use the inbox zero technique and start the year off right.
Cybercrime is a BIG business and hackers become more sophisticated each year. By making just a few of these small changes, you’ll significantly reduce the risk of a hacker stealing your sensitive information and putting you at risk this year.
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