With the modern world becoming more and more connected, the ability to keep one’s personal data private seems to be getting more difficult with each new advance in technology.
As soon as a new device or software is created, someone figures out a way to take private information from it. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft via electronic means is the number one crime that will most likely affect consumers in the days ahead.
Knowing this, a person can take few simple actions to avoid having personal data accessed and misused. The tips below are surprisingly simple and very effective, but unfortunately, some people tend to be quite lazy about securing their computers and data, failing to take a proactive approach to preventing problems.
Following are some easy-to-implement tips to keep your data private:
1. Change Passwords Regularly
One of the easiest and most effective defenses against data theft is to regularly change your passwords. The best password uses a code of mixed letter and numbers versus a known word or name. Not using the same password for every account is also highly recommended. Many people get their private accounts, emails, and financial accounts hacked because they use the same password for everything.
Once the password is figured out, an entire personal life can be compromised, especially if everything connects to an email address for password reset. Even IT professionals have made this simple mistake and have found all their financial accounts, social media platforms, and email accounts hacked.
2. Shut Down Public Access to Social Media Sites
If a hacker can’t guess an account password, he or she can find information about a person for free on social media sites. Because people often use the names of their relatives, friends, or contacts as passwords, the savvy hacker goes after information available through open access to figure out what passwords might be. By shutting down public access to social media accounts and their data, users prevent a hacker from grabbing information long before anyone gets the idea of how to use the data in the first place.
3. Check Your Credit Report Every Year
A credit report is a useful tool for both lenders and individuals who need to borrow money, but it is also a dangerous tool because it identifies every account, both open and closed, that is attached to a person’s name and social security number and potentially opens up that information to hackers. On the positive side, a credit report also accurately monitors the opening of any new accounts or credit lines; if these were not requested by the person aligned with that credit report, potential identity theft is uncovered and stopped before it occurs.
If monitoring your credit report is difficult, engage a monitoring service to oversee your report and complete regular credit checks. These services range from a simple alert via email or text when a change to the credit record occurs, to an all-out credit report freeze, blocking any new activity whatsoever.
4. Keep Anti-Virus Software and Firewalls Updated
A personal computer is only as safe as the systems that actively protect it. Anti-virus programs and firewalls together do a good job at keeping intruders out. However, they are only as good as their last set of definitions. If these programs become too outdated, then a very good hacker can devise a new method or tool to get into an Internet-accessible computer. The old definitions stop only what they recognize, so keep those definitions current.
5. Update Your Computer’s Operating Software
Even basic computer software can cause weaknesses in data security. Whether it is Java, Windows, or a word processing program, all programs that aren’t updated represent weaknesses or loopholes in the computer’s security. By simply updating regularly, these problems can be avoided as manufacturers eliminate problems with new security patches in updated programs.
You can’t stop every event, but by creating stronger personal defenses with the above tips to keep your data private, you become a more difficult target to compromise. Hackers are lazy too; they like easy targets over ones that involve work.