Security on the internet – In the age of the internet, data is the currency of the realm, in no small part because data is now how you access and use the currencies in the realm of your literal, physical bank account. Protecting your personal information and financial data is one of the most important security precautions you can take in the modern world.
Know Access Points
You know where all the doors and windows of your house are, not just because it’s your home and you know it well, but also because you know on some level that those are access points to where you live, and they should probably be secured against unwanted intruders. The same should apply in your digital life. What entities, organizations and sites need access to your personal data, and how much access do they really need.
Your bank, for example, will have access to your most sensitive financial information. Who has access to your bank information? Probably more people than you realize. All kinds of programs, from your paystub generator to your favorite online vendors have at least some of that information.
Practice Data Hygiene
Which is why it’s important to practice good data hygiene habits. You don’t just put things in a trash can, after all. You also take out the trash and make sure that valuable information is more completely disposed of. Digital information works the same way. Keeping track of who has access to your sensitive financial information is just the start. Just as you probably keep your important files organized and secured, do the same with your digital personal information. That probably means restricting some permissions in your apps and devices, but it may also mean deleting unnecessary duplicates, the same way you shred documents that you don’t need but don’t want anyone else to have either.
Part of data hygiene is securing your data, especially on your computer. Keep your computer safe with anti-virus and anti-malware programs, and make sure that those programs are all up-to-date and cover you as fully as possible. Beyond that, there are a lot of common sense measures that can keep you safe in the meanwhile.
Long passwords with numbers and symbols, especially ones that are unique, may be difficult to remember. It’s also a bit of a pain to have different keys for your home, office and car, but you wouldn’t dream of getting rid of them or just using a key that worked for lots of different homes, offices or cars. It’s a basic safety precaution; find a way to make it work for you.
Wherever possible, use multi-factor authentication. If you have to enter a password and a code texted to your phone, that means a hacker would have to guess your (hopefully long and complicated) password as well as getting their hands on your physical phone somehow. Basically, every extra layer of security makes a hacker’s job exponentially more difficult. At a certain point it’s simply not worth their time anymore.
Have a Backup Plan
That said, no security measures are completely perfect. A very determined burglar can get into pretty much anything, given enough time and sufficient incentive. Identity theft is, in essentials, no different. Your bank account, home, car and important possessions are insured for exactly that reason. You should have a similar backup plan for your digital possessions and important data. Ransomware attacks, for example, are pretty meaningless if you have your data securely backed up and don’t have anything too sensitive where people can get at it.
Identity theft is the new mugging, and a lot of the same common sense that will keep you from getting robbed can also keep your personal information safe. Know your access points, keep your data clean and tidy, make sure you set basic precautions like anti-virus software, strong passwords and multi-factor authentication wherever possible. In the event of all else failing, it really helps to have a backup plan.