Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.
Identity theft runs rampant in the U.S. and around the globe. Much of this theft happens via the use of computers. Tech makes life easier in many ways but also presents additional risks.
What can users do to reduce the risk of a security breach on their computer resulting in identity theft? Taking the following precautions can significantly reduce the chances of falling victim of computer-based identity theft.
1. Set Up User Permissions
When purchasing a new computer, few people take the time to set account permissions. However, doing so can reduce the risk of unknowingly downloading and installing malware, especially when several people share the same device.
After logging in for the first time, navigate to settings and then to user profiles. Grant only one account administrative permissions and set up all others utilizing the device as users only. That way, should a website attempt to push a download of a .exe file, your computer will block it from doing so unless you permit it through a dialog box.
2. Fight Fire with Firewalls
Think of a firewall as akin to a bouncer at a nightclub and data as the attendees. While most make it through the velvet rope no problem, those appearing suspicious are denied entry. Likewise, firewalls refuse entry of suspicious data packets to personal computers.
3. March Against Malware
Every personal computer user benefits from investing in quality anti-virus and anti-malware software. While no protection suite boasts 100 percent reliability, most do an excellent job of stopping known threats. Leaving a laptop unprotected rolls out the red carpet for viruses that can steal and corrupt data.
4. Hide from Prying Eyes
A virtual private network (VPN) adds another layer of protection and keeps your data safer when connecting to public WiFi. A VPN acts like a tunnel connecting individual laptops to a series of secure servers. In addition to making public networks more secure, a VPN allows users to navigate to blocked sites.
5. Exercise Inbox Caution
Scammers love using technology to bilk those unaware out of their hard-earned cash. One popular email scam involves asking recipients to click on a link to an online “store” for a one-time-only bargain. When the consumer types in their credit card data, skimmers retain that information to either directly purchase items or to sell the data to a third party for a price.
Give a hard pass to clicking on emailed links or downloading attachments from unknown senders. Instead, navigate directly to the real merchants’ site if interested in making a purchase. Credit card companies generally limit fraudulent charges to $50, but some sites of ill-repute demand payment by Western Union or direct bank transfer. Walk away from sites that request wiring money.
6. Change Passwords Regularly
Yes, remembering all those combinations of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters requires a memory on par with Dr. Spencer Reid of “Criminal Minds” fame. Change passwords frequently anyway. Write passwords down in a secure place, like a notebook in a locked safe, or use an app that saves passwords and makes all sites accessible through entering one master code.
7. Back Up at Least Weekly
Many companies from Microsoft’s OneDrive to Google Drive make backing up data instantaneous and easy. Go ahead and make use of these free tools.
Uncertain of cloud software or working on a project requiring high-level security? Invest in a remote hard drive and turn off internet connection while working on such projects.
8. Consider Dual Authentication
Dual authentication, or two-factor authentication, adds an extra step to verify a users’ identity before allowing them to log on. Once a user logs in, they receive a phone call or an app push notification on their phone with a code. Users then input this code to access protected data.
Those in professions like medicine or law benefit from two-factor authentication to meet due diligence requirements for keeping personal data secure. But everyone can access the power of such technology for added peace of mind.
Security in the Age of Technology
Today’s technology makes countless tasks simpler. However, connectivity exposes computer users to data breaches and identity theft. Practicing appropriate security measures can protect your data as well as your credit ratings.
To learn more about financial and identity theft scams to protect yourself from, check out this helpful infographic created by not-for-profit financial institution PSECU.