You may think that improving the security of your private information online may take too much effort, but there are simple steps that will help tremendously. If you haven’t taken the time to protect your online activity, the following suggestions are a good place to start.
1. Unique Strong Passwords
If you are using weak passwords such as your dog’s name and your birthday and then using that same password for every account you have.. please stop! Change all of your passwords and never use the same password for more than one account. This way, if someone gets one of your passwords, they will have no luck if they try to use it on other popular sites such as banks or social media.
I get it. Managing dozens, or even hundreds, of different passwords is difficult. The more passwords you have, the less likely you are going to be remembering them all in your head.
Luckily, a password manager app such as LastPass or 1Password will manage all of them for you. A password manager will generate a strong password and remember your login credentials for each of your online accounts so you only need to remember the one password to log into LastPass or password manager of your choice.
2. Two Factor Authentication (2FA)
This is a second layer of protection that requires a time-sensitive code to be entered, along with your username and password, in order to gain access to your account. Enable 2FA on all the accounts that offer it.
Also, having 2FA set up to send a code to your email or as a text message to your phone is via SMS is not the most secure choice, but it is always better to have 2FA enabled than not at all.
Both SMS and email can be easily intercepted so I do recommend using an authenticator application such as Authy or Microsoft Authenticator. These are applications that will run on your phone and will generate the correct code for your login right on your phone.
3. VPN Service
Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on all devices that use Wi-Fi outside of your home. Any data that is sent from your device can possibly be read by either the Wi-Fi owner or other people using that Wi-Fi connection. Texts, passwords, documents and any other information that is being transmitted over the Wi-Fi connection are at risk.
To ensure that data sent to and from your device is secure, the VPN will encrypt all data and it will be unreadable by anyone trying to snoop on your activity.
4. Email Security
Vulnerabilities are often introduced by you clicking on links or attachments received in your email. When choosing to follow a link or open a file, be sure it is legitimate.
This is also a good reason to have Virus Scan software installed which should alert you when something appears sketchy.
Another good practice is to have multiple email addresses, one for your financial accounts, one for social media, another for friends and family, and maybe another for retail or newsletters. For example, when you get an email that appears to be from your bank but was sent to your newsletter address (which your bank doesn’t have), you know it’s not valid.
5. Device Updates
Be vigilant in updating the operating systems on your computer, phone, and any other device you use online. Also, keep your apps up to date so when any bugs or vulnerabilities are found and fixed, you have the most recent and secure version.