Make protecting your data a top priority this year. Do it now, before you’re in the middle of an incident like identity theft, and you’ll be glad you did. Remember Benjamin Franklin’s advice, “Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

3 risks that we often overlook

Before you start, it is important to know the criminals’ tactics. It’s important to recognize three easy vulnerabilities that criminals use to get our data.

  1. Spear Phishing – phishing emails continue to plague many consumers and businesses. Learn to recognize suspicious emails now.
  2. Stolen Credentials – Usernames and passwords are easy to get if a criminal can trick you into giving them out. Be wary of downloading software, links in emails, and unsolicited tech support phone calls. Scams usually start out this way.
  3. Unpatched systems/software– Are you still running Windows XP? I hope not. Keep your systems, including phones and tablets, up to date by downloading the updates from the manufacturer. Better yet, turn on automatic updating and plan to buy new devices periodically.

Now that we know the vulnerabilities, we can plan to protect ourselves!

Where to start

Take an assessment of the devices you use the most. They usually contain the most data about you. I would start in this order:

  1. Your phone, tablet, and laptop come to mind since these are the ones we use the most. Make sure those are updated and have good anti-malware software on them.
  2. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication on your email. Research it on the Internet to learn how this works with your specific email account. Also, consider other email accounts you use. Yes, even that one you give out to the stores for the specials and coupons.
  3. Clean up your passwords. Again, take an assessment of the top online accounts and services you use the most. Change those passwords to make them unique. Next, move on to the next set of accounts and change those to all be unique and different. By doing this, you reduce the likelihood of account compromise due to weak passwords.
  4. Consider a password manager. They can make the job of cleaning up your passwords a lot simpler and assist you in creating complex, unique passwords for each of your accounts.
  5. Wipe, then recycle old devices. Do not just hand over your old device to someone. They may be legitimate but you cannot control the chain of custody after someone else has your device with your data.
  6. Consider getting ID theft protection and freezing your credit. Look for a later post on that.
  7. For more help, check out the Top Online Take Action Tips PDF from the BBB and the National Cybersecurity Alliance on my resources page.

What are some ways that you protect your data? Please tell us below.

Have another thought, tip or suggestion? Leave it in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

Posted by Elvis Huff

Elvis Huff worked as an officer and network administrator for 12 years with the Lebanon Police Department and has also served as an adjunct professor in information systems at Cumberland University. Read More »

2 Comments

  1. Multi-Factor Authentication is used on all my sensitive accounts except for my login to Wilson Bank & Trust. This should have been implemented by WB&T long ago. What is the holdup??

    Reply

    1. Hey Robert!

      We have MFA enabled and have had for years. The system is invisible to the end user and authenticates based on your devices. It is very robust.

      Reply

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