How to keep your information secure

MD Monthly Uncategorized

As the pace of technology accelerates, so do the tactics of those who make a living outside the law. If you’re working, have a family, or just don’t have the time to research, how are you supposed to keep up? Increasingly we see information breaches from enormous, seemingly-secure companies, and it can be frightening to think that you can’t protect yourself from it. To stay secure, here are five basic methods you should be employing:

1) The Old-Fashioned:
In the age of technology, don’t forget that trash-pilfering still exists. Check any and all receipts for identifying information; generally, if it only contains the last four digits of your credit card, it’s safe to toss. However, if it has your name or is from a secure institution (such as your bank), it’s always better to shred. If you don’t want your address out there, it’s a good idea to shred envelopes and tear off any delivery labels from packages. Be sure that any documents that contain information someone could identify you with, such as your full name, phone number, birth date, or other personal information, always goes through a shredder and not into the bin.

2) Don’t Click It — Hover:
We all know by now that if you get an email from a strange address or see a link on a website you’re unfamiliar with, you don’t click it without googling it first. Phishers are becoming increasingly clever and can make emails appear as if they are from large, trusted companies such as Amazon or Google. Always click on the name of the sender if suspicious, and the actual email address should pop up. More importantly, before you click any link, hover over it with your mouse. On the bottom rim of your browser, text will appear telling you the URL of the link. Let’s say you get an email from Trusted Co. The beginning of the URL should look like one of these: trustedco.com OR something.trustedco.com

If it is NOT legitimate, it can be any random URL, but it can also be deceptive: trustedco.randomwebsite.com

The second section, the one directly before “.com”, “.net”, “.org”, etc. is the actual website. Be sure to stay safe, and if in doubt, don’t click!

3) Updating is Important:
These days, most operating systems come equipped with adequate security software, provided you aren’t clicking shady links or downloading untrustworthy software regularly. Something you may not know, or may not think is important, is that updating your software is of high importance. Yours may update automatically, and it may not. Your best bet at safety is to set it to automatically update as often as it can, or update it manually once a week. Run quick scans once or twice a week and deep scans once or twice a month. Be sure to run a deep scan after downloading anything you don’t 100% trust.

4) Back It Up:
Your photos, writings, and any other computer-saved information are all prone to theft, deletion, or file corruption. The best rule to follow here: Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. Back up your information regularly in at least two separate places, as external hard drives and USBs can corrupt, especially if they’re past warranty. You can also opt to store information in cloud storage, which is offered by several different trusted companies, however, it comes with the (very) small risk that your information may be hacked or sold. Regardless, your information is precious and be sure to copy files into multiple places a few times a month. If you’ve just downloaded a bunch of photos, finished a chapter in your book, or finished editing your video, that is the ideal time to back up your info. If it’s sensitive information, it’s advisable to not store it on any device connected to the internet.

5) Apps — Not So Innocent:
If you’re the kind of person that’s always trying out new apps, exercise caution. Most free apps are in fact gaining access to your personal information in exchange for the download, which you’re legally agreeing to. Some of the most common information you are trading to whoever created the app are your name, phone number, browsing history, your entire address book, and your social media information. There are ways to view what you’re agreeing to before your download, so be sure to check it out and decide whether it’s worth it to you. If not, there are often paid versions of free apps that ask for less information. With some apps, it will hardly matter. For example, if your bank app wants to know your name and number, it’s safe to say that’s not much of a risk. However, if Stapler Wars 7 wants access to your Facebook and the names and phone numbers of everyone in your address book, it’s best to think twice.

With a little savvy, you can keep your risk of identity theft or other malicious activity to a bare minimum. Be sure to develop these good habits and you and your family can put your worries to rest. If in doubt, search it online and do some reading. There’s a lot of information out there, and with a little sleuthing, you can almost always find what you need.