by J. William G. Chettle, VP, Loring Ward
With major security breaches regularly in the headlines, such as the hacking of Equifax, Uber, Hyatt, Verizon, Yahoo, and too many other companies, what are some practical steps you can take to protect yourself and your information?
Loring Ward, as well as partner firms we work with, such as custodians, take cybersecurity very seriously and are doing our part to protect your data. But there are still several areas where simple, smart safeguards can make a significant difference in keeping your information safe.
Secure Your Email
Use two-factor authentication for your email to reduce the risks of being hacked. With two-factor authentication, whenever you access your email from a new device, a code is sent to your smartphone that you then enter on the device. This is much more secure than simply using a password.
If you receive an email with a hyperlink, hover your cursor — without clicking — over the sender’s email address and the hyperlink text to ensure both are legitimate. Clicking on a malicious link from even a trusted contact can subject your computer to spyware, viruses, or ransomware.
Don’t Use the Same Passwords for Multiple Sites
Use a password manager like LastPass (lastpass.com) to help keep track of your usernames and passwords for various sites, to generate complex and randomized passwords, and to perform a security test of your existing passwords. It sure beats a Word or Excel file stored on your computer, or, worse yet, a series of Post-it notes.
Monitor Financial Accounts
Be sure to look at your monthly/quarterly statements (from banks, credit cards, etc.) for potential fraudulent activity. You can use phone apps or online reporting to make this easier. And consider signing up for fraud alerts so you receive notification of any suspicious activity.
Monitor Your Credit Reports
The three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) offer a free credit report annually. Consider staggering the reports so you get one every four months. Check for any errors as well as fraudulent accounts opened in your name. You can get started at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Put a Security Freeze on Your Credit Report
For those worried about the Equifax hack (and we all should be) this is a simple, free, and fast way of protecting yourself. With a security freeze in place, no one can check your credit report or open a credit card in your name, unless you unfreeze your credit — which can be done online using a unique PIN in seconds. You can also lock your credit report, which has a similar effect, but can be a more cumbersome process. I recently froze my credit, and it took less than 10 minutes — though the Equifax site crashed several times. If you have children under the age of 18, you may also want to freeze their credit reports. You need to put a security freeze in place at all three credit reporting agencies, using the links below.
These are just a few of the ways you can better protect yourself online. Successful cybersecurity may require a few extra steps and some extra attention, but a few smart precautions can help protect your important data and keep your personal information as safe and secure as possible.