By: Gary Thomas—
It’s no mystery that the cyber bad guys are out to cause havoc, steal and make life difficult for the rest of us. Being aware of your digital surroundings with your on-line data is critical to not fall victim in our connected world.
Here are some tips to follow:
- SET UP STRONGER PASSWORDS. This might sound like common sense, but you would be surprised. One of the simplest ways to protect your home is to change the default security passwords on all connected devices. Don’t leave it on whatever password was set by the manufacturer. Try not to use the same password for various devices.
Let’s talk a bit more about passwords for a second. Yes, make them longer. Yes, make them phrases and add characters, numbers and complexity when possible. Now, just remember them all without writing them down. Just kidding, keep reading.
Having trouble keeping track of the laundry list of passwords? Try products like www.lastpass.com that have secure portals to help you remember confidential information like passwords. The mobile app is a great way to have this information at your fingertips and there are settings that allow you to give access as a contingency plan in case of emergencies.
- RUN REGULAR SYSTEM UPDATES. If you find yourself clicking “remind me tomorrow” for months at a time whenever Apple has a new update, you’re not alone. Here’s the deal—the updates, as annoying and time consuming as they can be, update critical security features. So, raise your right hand and take the oath that you will do updates when prompted. What many people overlook are the hidden devices like routers, the digital control system in your car, or anything that is “connected” to a network of information.
- SET UP A GUEST WIRELESS NETWORK. This might be something a little more advanced but setting up a “guest” wireless network in addition to your primary one can be a life-saver. This is useful for actual guests that visit and yes, please password protect the guest network with a different password from the primary Wi-Fi. It’s better to separate your computers and devices that you enter personal information on from other connected devices like televisions, refrigerators and thermostats. Join the other connected devices to the guest network. Then, if someone hacks into your digitally connected toaster, they won’t be able to see your computer since it’s on a different network.
- LET’S TALK STARBUCKS. Not picking on your favorite hangout but be careful of the public Wi-Fi networks you connect to. These open networks can be the wild-wild-west for thieves to steal data. The bad guys can create networks that appear legitimate but really aren’t. A good rule of thumb is to never access sensitive sites that you have personal information in public environments. The next time you need to check your bank account while out in public, do it from your phone data not from the free Wi-Fi. The connection will be more secure, and it will keep your account information safer.
- FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS. Get in the habit of accessing financial accounts on a weekly basis and reviewing transactions. If something looks funny, call the credit card company or financial institution pronto. Time is not on your side as a small transaction that seems nominal, like a pack of gum at a gas station, could be a thief seeing if the card is valid. The next transaction could be more expensive. Oh, another tip is to not use your debit card on-line, but rather use a credit card, prepaid credit card, or services like PayPal to give you added security.
I’ve probably bored you enough, but we could go on with additional tips and how-to’s to keep you safe. My advice is to stay alert, keep educating yourself and ask questions of those you do business with. Your financial health could be at risk in the connected world we live in.
If you have any question about security or any technical questions, feel free please to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to help.
Gary Thomas is the President of Leap Managed IT, a technology consulting firm with locations in Muncie and Fishers, Indiana. For more information visit: www.leapmanagedit.com