As technology grows and changes, so must our persistence in protecting our information and assets. We would like to assure you that we go to great lengths to protect our clients and employees personal information. In doing so, we realize it is inevitable that at some point a vendor you personally use will fall victim to a loss of sensitive information, maybe even yours. Let’s take a moment to review nine simple steps you can take to protect both your business and your personal information.
- Freeze your credit. This is a simple way to ensure that even if your information is stolen no one can open credit in your name-not even you. It is relatively quick to freeze and likewise thaw. This website provides more details about the process. You may also want to freeze your underage children’s credit.
- Check your credit at least three times per year. The website www.annualcreditreport.com allows you to check your credit through TransUnion, Equifax, & Experian. Each of these three companies lets you check it once a year for free. So, if you rotate the companies every 3-4 months you can keep an eye on your credit throughout the year. (Ex. Check Transunion in Feb., Experian in June and Equifax in October)
- Limit the use of debit cards whenever possible. Debit cards have a more direct link to your actual bank account, thus creating more of a risk to your money. Credit cards provide more of a buffer between a criminal and your cash. If you do use a debit card, utilize the credit option whenever possible. Pin numbers are easily lifted and provide a straight line to your cash.
- Set up a password system that utilizes groups of passwords for different vendors. If a vendor’s system is compromised and your information is stolen, this would keep a criminal from having a login that can be used at multiple vendors-particularly one from a more secure group. This can also be utilized with personal accounts. If you have a common password that is used for multiple accounts, be sure that you use a different password for any banking, credit or other high risk accounts. A spreadsheet can even be used to document sites and usernames to a password legend of some sort (P1=EasyPassword, P2=MediumPassword!, P3=H@rdP@ssword!…. P10=$#).ad21fv9!. ). Just memorize the passwords and document the P code with the site and username.
- Never email personal information without sending the information through an encrypted system. There are many different encryption file transfer systems. Think before using “free” services. They are free for a reason, you may be the product and the customer may be someone paying for your information.
- When possible, implement a two-factor authentication process. Two-factor authentication is typically something you know (username and password) and something you have (cell phone or key fob). This allows protection to systems even when your username and password may be compromised.
- Get antivirus and malware protection and be familiar with what type you have. Many hackers use popups that act as a malware program to hack into a computer. Be sure to keep your protection program up to date. The only way it can fight the most recent viruses is if it is kept as current as possible. Also, occasionally run a free scan from another vendor. You can use HouseCall, a free online scan, any time.
- For an additional layer of comfort you may want to subscribe to credit monitoring services such as LifeLock. However, before doing so, make sure you fully understand what you are buying. Some services have limits for reimbursement and will simply be there to assist in the event that your personal information is compromised.
- Shred documents, such as bank records, before throwing them out. Although less important now, because a lot of sensitive information is redacted from paperwork, this is still a good practice. Sometimes identity theft comes in the form of social engineering where the attacker gains a little bit of information at a time to gather a fair amount of knowledge about the victim.
We hope the above list of ideas helps you to keep your private information private. By utilizing some of these tips and working to protect your personal information, it is likely your finances and credit can stay secure even as companies you do business with fall victim to targeted cyber-attacks.