Seven to ten percent of Americans fall victim to identity fraud every year. While some victims will recover lost savings and damaged credit scores, there’s no accounting for the extensive time and stress involved in regaining your identity.
Every time you input a password or sensitive information like a social security number, there’s a chance that it ends up in the wrong hands.
By virtue of being connected to the internet, you can never be quite sure your personal data is secure. It’s not like you can seal this data in a vault somewhere.
But there are plenty of ways to keep your data secure enough from all but the most talented of hackers.
Data security isn’t just for corporations – it’s time for consumers to protect themselves, too. Enhance your online safety with these compiled security tips:
1. Use a Password Manager
Hackers don’t need access to your computer or home network to break into your personal accounts. Weak passwords are susceptible to brute-force attacks through the use of a simple program.
This software will quickly parse through every letter and number combination available in the way a bike thief may hurriedly scroll through a four-number padlock.
The longer your password, the better. But you’ll also want to take advantage of numbers, capital letters, and special characters. These complicate the decoding process and make brute-force attacks less likely to succeed or be worthwhile.
However, there’s a problem: Hard passwords are hard to remember. Maybe you’ll think that it’s fine to use this password across most of your accounts to keep things simple.
But don’t. If a hacker does discover or decode a password on your account, they can break into every other account that uses this same password.
If you have trouble remembering your passwords or creating difficult ones, use a password manager. This tool creates passwords for all your accounts and keeps them locked behind a single master key.
So long as you remember your master key and have access to your computer, you can log into all your accounts with ease — while hackers can’t.
2. Backup Your Data
One part of keeping your data secure is keeping it out of the hands of others. The other part is ensuring you keep it in your own hands no matter what.
Over the years, you may collect plenty of crucial digital data, such as tax returns, emails, projects – almost anything. If your hard drive suddenly crashes, you can say goodbye to all that irreplaceable data.
To that end, you should always back up your data whenever possible. Follow the 3-2-1 rule. Keep three versions of your data available across two physical storage options and one digital option.
With the help of an external storage drive, you can manually copy and back up anything from your main device. Keep this storage drive on hand in case something goes wrong. On the off-chance that your home is the victim of a fire or other disaster, a cloud backup option is just as important.
Turn to Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, or the iCloud for a few gigabytes of cloud storage. For more storage space, you’ll need a service plan.
For additional backup options, most operating systems come with a restore feature, such as Time Machine. Here’s how to make a Time Machine backup.
3. Stay Safe With Anti-Malware
Malware is one of the most common perpetrators of data theft. Computer users may pick up a rogue keylogger or trojan from a malicious advertisement, website, or download.
Without their knowledge, this malware watches everything they do online and skims account names, passwords, credit card details – everything.
That’s why an Antivirus program is so important. Not only can it prevent malware from infecting your machine, but it can detect it later on. The faster you remove a rogue malware service, the more likely you’ll avoid serious damage.
Practicing safe internet browsing can help you avoid the worst of malware, but you’re never completely secure even on some of the most popular websites.
Antivirus programs come in many different shapes, sizes, and prices. Your best bet is to search for a cheap or free option with the best reviews.
It’s true that Windows 10 and macOS come with their own antivirus security features, but there’s nothing wrong with seeking out something a bit more powerful.
4. Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi hotspots found in places like coffee shops are no doubt convenient. But that convenience often comes with a price.
They present two glaring data security conundrums. The first issue is that not every public Wi-Fi network is encrypted. This means anyone with the slightest bit of networking knowledge can skim your data as you use the internet on their network.
The other problem is just as serious. Since it’s a public network, anyone can join. Even on an encrypted network, a hacker will have an easy time watching your online interactions so long as you’re both using the same network.
Always do sensitive online transactions in the comfort of your own home. If you live in an apartment or townhouse, keep in mind that your neighbors can try to slip onto your network, too.
Keep your router software up to date and never use anything weaker than WPA2 encryption.
Keep Your Data Secure
While everyone is only one data security breach away from personal data loss, you can keep your data secure at home.
Simple tools like a password manager and an antivirus program go a long way towards internet safety.
Once you include smart practices like using a secure network and backing up your data, you’re well on your way to a safer online experience.