5 Basic Tips to Protect Your Identity Online
Protecting your identity online is a critical part of securing your wealth and well-being. By following these quick, easy tips you can feel secure in knowing you have taken additional steps that will decrease the risk of identity theft. Here are a few tips from our Identity Theft Expert, John Sileo, to help ensure your online experience is safe.
1. Passwords – Use unique, strong passwords for all of your online accounts. Passwords are your first level of defense against ID theft, so varying them between sites assures that one stolen password does not lead to multiple breached accounts. Create strong, alpha-numeric-symbol based passwords that are at least 13 characters or utilize password protection software, such as 1Password, to protect your information from online criminals. Make the password something easy to remember and associated with the name, for example: if you bank at the University Hills branch, your password might be “The Hills Are Alive” coded as “Th3 h!ll$ @r3 @l!v3.” You will never forget it.
2. Secure URLs – Before entering any personal information online, confirm the website utilizes Secure Sockets Layer technology (SSL.) You can verify that you are accessing a secure website by making sure that the URL starts with https:// instead of just http://. Some browsers also display a lock symbol or a green URL bar if the site is secure. Also, be safe when utilizing email – never open an email from an unknown source or person, and when in doubt, delete the message.
3. Anti-Virus – Be sure you have installed anti-virus software on your computer, such as McAfee, Norton or Sophos. Set the software up to scan your hard drive and email daily and to check for anti-virus updates automatically. Have the software install all updates as soon as they are available. If your computer has outdated anti-virus software, you risk having malware infect your computer and hijack personal information. Malware is malicious software that can significantly damage your computer.
4. WiFi – It is best to avoid public Wi-Fi whenever possible. Connecting to “free” public Wi-Fi means you are connecting to an unencrypted network, leaving your computer open for others to gain access. That is why it is recommended to never access pages that contain your personal information (such as online banking or shopping sites) while connected to a public Wi-Fi. If you are making an online purchase, looking at your online banking, emailing a personal story or photo, ONLY do so on a secure, password protected internet connection or from your smartphone or tablet’s cellular connection.
5. Browser Settings – Never select the “remember me on this computer” option to autofill data, especially if you are using a public computer where someone can easily record what you type. Utilizing anonymous search tools, such as DuckDuckGo or browser incognito mode, can be a great way to protect your information, especially when using public computers. If you use cloud-based file sharing sites, like Dropbox or iCloud, remember that those services were not designed with security as a primary feature. Turning on two-factor authentication and encryption will help protect you (as long as you use strong passwords – see above), but your files are still ultimately under someone else’s control.