The new year is officially underway, and a lot of consumers use this time to make a fresh start. For most people, that means making healthier choices or being smarter about their spending. But, we aren’t most people, and certain things have a higher priority. For example, one of the best ways to start the year off right is with a basic security check of your personal data, which begins with your technology.
First, if you’re like most U.S. households, you have at least one computer and an internet connection. Is your computer password protected? You might not think you need to lock your computer, especially your desktop computer—after all, is someone really going to break in and take the time to sit at your desk and browse through your documents? In reality, computers are high-dollar items that are easy to pawn due to the frequency with which consumers buy or upgrade their devices. If a thief did snatch your desktop or laptop computer, what will the computer’s next buyer find? With a strong password, the thief would have no choice but to reformat the hard drive, wiping out your stored information.
When you’re taking stock of your passwords, what are you doing with them? Are you building strong passwords that a hacker can’t uncover through guessing software? Or, did you use your last name and the number one on all of your online accounts? Strong passwords will keep people out of your accounts, but you also have to protect the passwords. Don’t be tempted to store them in a file on your computer or in a password-storing app on your smartphone.
Once you’ve secured all of your devices, have you protected them from viruses and malware? With strong, industry-standard software—typically available for $20 to $50—you can surf the web safely, while knowing that your computer is protected from attempts to harm your system and infiltrate your information. It’s very important that you update your software routinely; antivirus companies frequently release updates as new viruses and threats are discovered. Your old software may not be “trained” to catch a virus that hackers wrote just last week.
Your antivirus software is a safety net, yet not a brick wall around your computer. It can only protect you from so much, so it’s up to you to stay informed about current threats, new scams and creative ways that hackers go after their victims. These can include things such as phishing attempts, where you’re enticed into clicking on unknown links, suspicious videos or responding to hacking attempts. Make sure you don’t become one of those victims by following industry experts on social media to learn about the most recent threats.
By taking stock of your security now, and by developing good habits to protect your personally identifiable information and your financial data, you can spend the rest of the year at ease with your technology. Spend a little time right now to prevent an identity theft or hacking problem, instead of taking up far more time cleaning up a problem.