As more and more of our lives move online–both at home and in the workplace–the importance of locking your data down against any potential snooper has grown all the greater. With the proliferation of social media, a skilled hacker can skim all the information they might need to compromise your security: everything from the date of your birth to even the model of your first car–so you need to be active in protecting your identity.
Fortunately, these easy steps can make a big difference, even for the non-tech-savvy among us:
A strong front gate. A weak password is like leaving your front door unlocked. It may ward off the casual passerby, but a determined effort will hardly be hampered. A truly secure password is complex: use at least 10 characters made up of a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Though creating different passwords for each of your online accounts can be a hassle, it ensures one compromised key doesn’t unlock all doors.
(For more advanced users: Download a password manager. A reputable manager can enable you to increase your password security exponentially, while not significantly increasing the time it takes to enter. Why use “aBcD123” when you can use “a?1þÔºXÙ>qêÔ” instead? Recommended software: KeePass)
Trick questions. Just about any site these days that holds to a high standard of security will ask you to answer security questions–typically something only you should know. But, as mentioned already, things “only you should know” have a way of making their way online! Rather than answer factually, provide an answer whose meaning is special only to you. For example: When asked where you were born, choose another memorable location.
(Advanced: Just treat a security question as another password. Your first pet’s name is unlikely to have been “t_3*N0O5% s”, but that’s far more secure than “Spot.”)
Double verification. If you have a Google account, you may know about double verification: any attempt to access the account from an unfamiliar computer, Google will ask for a special one-time password that they generate and send to your cell phone. Though this layer of protection is virtually impenetrable to all but the most determined efforts, it is still not commonplace across the web–use it whenever possible.
Lock down your wireless. An unsecured wireless network is like placing bright lights and arrows pointing at your open back door, except that hackers will not fear the invitation is a trap! Most modern wireless routers will prompt you to enter a password as it gets set up, but double check and be sure to make the password strong. And if you are using public Wi-Fi, always log out of your accounts when you are finished.
Never click on questionable links. One clear indication that your friend has had their account hacked is when they start spamming you about pharmaceutical offers and pleas from a Nigerian prince. If ever you find an email entirely uncharacteristic for the sender, be sure not to click any link in the email and, ideally, do not even open it. Be sure to alert the friend immediately.
Back up your data. Purchase an external hard drive to back up your data or store your files in the cloud via applications like Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive, or my favorite: Carbonite. I’ve had computers and hard drives fail in our office, and we’ve been back up and running within a few hours because everything is backed up to Carbonite. While you might not have a law firm’s volume of data, I’m sure that what you have is just as important to you and losing it would be problematic, at the very least.
If you’d like to learn more about protecting all your assets, including digital assets, call our office today at (612) 206-3701 or fill out our contact form to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.
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