Millions have their identity stolen every year, much of it through online accounts. Here are simple steps you can take to protect yourself online.
There’s no denying that financial information is some of the most sensitive data we deal with every day. Because of the sensitive nature of financial information, it should be a priority for all individuals and businesses to do everything in their power to protect it.
Why you should keep financial information private
In order to protect all financial information, encourage your friends, families, coworkers, and employees to protect their Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This type of information includes names, personal ID numbers such as social security, driver’s license, taxpayer and credit account numbers, addresses, biometrics, vehicle IDs, phone numbers and technology asset information such as IP addresses. If these identifiers are kept private, hackers will have a more difficult time breaking into your larger systems and accessing financial information once inside.
How to prevent identity theft
Identity theft occurs when an unauthorized individual gains access to personal information online and impersonate a said person with malicious intent. Those who gain access to personal accounts can retrieve all login information, personal data and commit cyber crimes such as tax fraud and theft. Identity theft can have repercussions that last for years following the attack and can negatively affect your finance, digital reputation, and privacy. In order to avoid identity theft, precautions can be taken that increase your security online and lock down confidential information on various levels.
How to keep your PI safe online
The first step in ensuring your information is safe online is implementing a few new practices into daily digital activity. A few of these practices include:
Use strong passwords
One of the most important things you can do to keep your systems safe is to lock down systems with strong passwords. The use of weak passwords makes all internal accounts easier for cybercriminals to hack and is something that can be easily avoided with a quick update. When you go to update passwords from weak to strong, be sure to include both lower and upper case letters, at least one special character, and avoid using personal information such as qualifiers, which include names, home addresses, and birthdates.
Enable two-factor authentication
To further keep financial information secure, utilize a two-factor authentication security process for all internal systems. The addition of this second step provides an extra layer of security to limit who can access your information. With this form of authentication, simply knowing the password is not enough to gain access to private accounts.
Rather, anyone trying to break in will go through multiple forms of security checkpoints, such as a fingerprint scan or facial recognition, before successfully logging in. Many of these second checkpoints require the use of multiple devices as well, making it even more challenging for hackers to penetrate the system.
Never save payment information online
According to a study conducted by CreditCards.com, approximately 100 million American individuals currently store their credit card or debit card information within apps or on websites to make future shopping experiences more convenient.
While it may seem helpful at the time, storing your financial data on these kinds of sites actually makes it easier for hackers to access your information. Not only could this site be hacked, but your personal device might be stolen. In either scenario your personal information would be at risk.
Make purchases from trustworthy sites only
A pro tip to ensuring you are browsing on and entering financial information on a safe site is to look for the “S” after “HTTP” in a website’s address. This “S” signifies that the site you’re visiting is protected by Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption.
You can also double check for a trust icon (which looks like a padlock symbol) on the site with the words “Secure” or “Verified”. Click this icon to see if you are taken to a verification page and if you aren’t, you’ll know that it’s a fake, unsecure site. This can help you avoid filling purchase orders or fulfilling other financial activities on sites that could easily open your system up to hackers.
Protect your company’s reputation too
Research shows that a single data breach can cost American businesses an average of $7 million, considering the firm’s direct monetary loss along with business disruption, fines, and credit monitoring and identity theft repair efforts. On top of these costs, failing to protect your customers’ and employees’ sensitive personal data can destroy their trust in your brand. To avoid these repercussions, consider implementing these practices for your whole enterprise:
Use secure applications and tools
Some of the most important things to lock down within your systems are the tools your employee base use every day. From messaging systems and call center software to the email platform you send all important data through, ensuring these tools have adequate security measures is critical. One simple way to keep these tools in sync is to streamline them all through a cloud-based unified communications platform with built-in security measures. Not only does implementing the cloud ensure the safety of all tools your employees are using, but it also makes it simple to track that security by being hosted in one, unified system.
These days, most correspondence between professionals happens via email, which increases the need to protect data by utilizing email encryption. Not sure what encryption is? Email encryption is the process of using an authentication mechanism to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing private email messages and information. Most well-known email platforms come with a form of built-in encryption, but that often isn’t enough for sensitive financial data. Instead, consider upgrading to a more secure form of encryption and require all individuals within your network to do the same.
Personal and professional precautions
Even if you think you are invincible online or have nothing to hide, it’s important to protect privacy from both a personal and professional standpoint. You never know when something completely innocent-seeming could lead to a threat or breach.
In order to prepare for these unknown attacks on your data, the best thing you can do is make that information less accessible, starting with these tips laid out before. To also stay up-to-date on the best security practices available, continue to research and update security measures as necessary.