Cybercrime is on the rise. Criminals are going after financial institutions because that’s where all the money is. In 2017, breaches and fraud incidents, both online and offline, increased more than 130% year over year. Many experts believe there are only two types of financial institutions with regards to digital security – those that have already faced a cyberattack and those that haven’t – yet. Here are some strategies to help keep your money safe and secure in this new digital age.
Think before you click
Social networks are one of the most favored methods criminals use to extract your personal financial data. One of the most popular schemes is to lure users into clicking links that unknowingly download and run malware programs. Best practices here are to simply be extremely careful before clicking and opening files from a social network.
Check your passwords
The first and easiest rule we can give you here is to have a very long and strong password on your financial accounts as well as your email. We also encourage you to have unique passwords for each account. A rule of thumb about the best passwords: make sure it’s composed of at least 12 random numbers and symbols and uses both upper and lower-case letters. People often like to use a name, a number and exclamation point, but it should all be random!
If you feel that’s too complicated, consider using a password manager service or software program that generates different passwords for each of your financial accounts. A rule of thumb when choosing a password manager: an institution that’s going to charge a fee for that service might offer you a little more safety and security than one that doesn’t.
Be sure to also take advantage of offers to use multi-factor authentication on your accounts.
Disposing of electronic files
When getting rid of your electronic devices – computers, hard drives, thumb drives, etc., it’s really important that you do so in a responsible way. Even though you’re confident you’ve deleted all the files, restoring them is easier than you might think for an enlightened hacker. Check with your local better business bureau about secure recycling of electronic devices.
As we mentioned, hitting the delete key doesn’t necessarily remove files permanently. There are several viable free software programs for PCs to securely delete your data. It’s also a good idea to encrypt your external document storage devices.
Check your credit report
We recommend you go to www.annualcreditreport.com (unless you’re using a program like LifeLock or an equivalent) to help monitor and manage your credit. This can increase the chance that you’ll discover a financial hack or potential problem close to when it occurs. If you find errors or unauthorized activity, report this to the credit bureaus immediately. What you’re looking for are late payments and open accounts you don’t recognize.
Don’t bury your head in the sand about your finances and digital security. Be proactive and take steps now.
By Michael Carlin, AIF®