Just as the markets have seemingly entered a new phase, so too has cybercrime. It used to be that your email and online financial accounts posed the biggest threat to the security of our personal data. Now it appears that the profiles from those innocuous social media channels like Facebook and the data gleaned from your online viewing habits are being used to target ads and political messages. While not financially dangerous per se, the ways in which your personal information is obtained, analyzed and used by others is pretty mind boggling.
Cybercrime and fraud are serious threats and constant vigilance is key. The checklist below summarizes several common cyber fraud tactics, along with tips and best practices.
Adhere to strong password principles
• Don’t use personal information as part of your login ID or password and don’t share login credentials with anyone
• Create a unique, complex password for each website. Change it every six months. Consider using a password manager to simplify this process.
Maintain updated technology
• Keep your web browser, operating system, antivirus, and anti-spyware updated, and activate the firewall.
• Do not use free/found USB devices. They may be infected with malware.
• Check security settings on your applications and web browser. Make sure they’re strong.
• Turn off Bluetooth when it’s not needed.
• Dispose of old hardware safely by performing a factory reset or removing and destroying all storage data devices.
Use caution on websites and social media
• Do not visit websites you don’t know (e.g., advertised on pop-up ads and banners).
• Log out completely to terminate access when exiting all websites.
• Don’t use public computers or free Wi-Fi. Use a personal Wi-Fi hotspot or a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
• Hover over questionable links to reveal the URL before clicking. Secure websites start with “https,” not “http.”
• Be cautious when accepting “friend” requests on social media, liking posts, or following links.
• Review which apps have access to your data.
• Be aware of what’s publicly available from your social media profile.
• Consider what you’re disclosing before sharing or posting your résumé or other personal information.
Unfortunately, criminals often take the path of least resistance. Following best practices and applying common sense and caution when sharing information or executing transactions makes a big difference.
COO and Co-Founder of Northstar Investment Advisors.