Every few months, it seems we see a news story about a company’s database being hacked or private information leaking online. According to a MetricStream Research survey, two-thirds of financial institutions have experienced a cyberattack in the past year. And this becomes particularly worrisome during tax season when we see an uptick in tax-related scams and identity theft.
Here are some tips for improving your online security to help you prevent your financial accounts from being hacked.
Protect Your Personal Information
The best way to reduce your chances of identity theft and account hacking is to be judiciously protective of your personal information ”” especially your Social Security number. If an online form requests your Social Security number, confirm whether it is necessary to fill out. When in doubt, if you aren’t sure a call, email, form, or letter is legitimate, call an official number for the business or company and verify that the request is accurate. Be cautious when online shopping, especially if you have to input your credit card information and you’re not familiar with the business.
Boost Your Browser Privacy
Clear your browser data on a regular basis to protect against hackers. This can cause a bit of an inconvenience in that it will delete any passwords you have saved in your browser and you will have to login again on sites that previously remembered you, but the enhanced security is worth it. You can also avoid marketers by activating Do Not Track in your browser settings or by installing a browser extension to block spying ads and trackers.
Keep Your Software Up-to-Date
Software updates are created to fix security problems and improve existing software. If you don’t update your software, you leave it exposed and vulnerable to the problems that the updates were designed to fix. Update your operating system on each of your electronic devices, as well as apps. You can also set up automatic updates for your website browsers. Smart home cameras, locks, or thermostats, while very convenient, also open you up to more risk, so you should make sure that they have the latest software. For added security, you may consider installing antivirus and firewall software, which proactively scan your computer for viruses and can detect any hacker attempts.
Use Strong Passwords
When creating an account, use strong, unique passwords that can’t be hacked easily. A rule of thumb for creating a strong password is to use a long string of random letters and numbers with capitalization and special characters, if permitted. Every account password should be different. While this makes it nearly impossible to remember so many passwords and which accounts they go with, you can use a password manager, like LastPass, to store all of your password information so you don’t have to remember it.
Another helpful tool is to enable two-factor authentication, which requires additional identification like security questions. After submitting your password, you’ll be texted or emailed a code to confirm your identity. Most devices, including Apple ID, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft, and many banks offer two-factor authentication.
Ensure Others Follow Suit
There are plenty of actions you can take, but it’s also up to companies and businesses to actively work to protect your private information. If a company has consistently experienced cyber attacks, you may consider deleting your online account or ensuring you haven’t stored any credit card information. Follow up with stores like Home Depot and Target who experienced attacks in the last year. And make sure your advisor is taking proper precautions to safeguard your financial accounts.
FINRA fined a dozen financial advisory firms over $14 million for cybersecurity failures, and CNBC recently reported that only about 30% of financial advisors are adequately protecting their clients’ information. At my firm, we take cyber security seriously because we know how devastating the effects can be. Me and my staff use firewalls, file encryption, and password protection on our computers, and we take several precautions to protect client information, such as never sending or receiving personal information over email and only requesting information like Social Security numbers when absolutely necessary.
While it can feel unnerving to think about cyber attacks and hacking, implementing some of these tips may help you feel more confident and can help you reduce your risk. If you have questions about your online information or how we work to protect your information, contact my office at 770.249.7424 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.