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Top 7 Tips for Helping Protect Your Data Online

, by Rob Kaufman

It is of prime importance that parents, children, businesses and everyone who uses digital technology understand how crucial it is to have a first line of defense against those who are trying to steal our data. That's why we need to talk about data privacy and to understand the different ways that we can protect our online data.

Consumers need to protect their online data and keep it out of the hands of hackers and identity thieves. If you think your data is secure, think again. From everything you post on social media to your browsing habits and all the information that organizations collect about you online, you leave a digital "footprint". This footprint needs to be cared for properly so that you can better manage your privacy and protect your personal information. Here are our top 7 tips:

  1. Antivirus software

Whether you use the most comprehensive software that can protect you against virtually every virus or simply a free antivirus tool that protects you against basic malware, make sure it's on your system or device and keep it updated.

  1. An up-to-date operating system and software

Operating system and software updates typically include critical security and vulnerability patches. Manually updating your OS and software or enabling automatic software updates is crucial to protecting your system (and ultimately your data) from viruses and other security breaches.

  1. Password complexity

First, comes the task of making sure your passwords are complex enough to make it almost impossible for hackers to figure out their configuration. Then comes the task of NOT reusing passwords across different accounts. Think about it, if a hacker accesses one of your accounts (i.e. banking or investment), he or she will most likely try to use the discovered password for your other accounts (i.e. PayPal or eBay). Don't make it easy for them.

  1. Free Wi-Fi networks

Unprotected Wi-Fi networks are a hacker's dream. It's one of the easiest ways for them to steal login information because the network isn't set up with the security required to stop them from accessing your credentials. If you must use free Wi-Fi at public places, check to ensure that HTTPS is enabled on any site you visit. If you want extra protection, try using a VPN (virtual private network) that allows you to route your activity through a separate secure network -providing you with the security of a private network even though you're on a public one.

  1. Online account monitoring

If you consistently keep an eye on your online accounts, you'll know sooner rather than later if the account has been compromised or hacked. If for instance, you check your online bank account only once a month, the thief has about thirty days to do his or her damage. The same goes for your PayPal, credit card and other accounts. Stay vigilant!

  1. Post-breach precautions

When a company or website with which you have an account gets breached, the first step to take is to change your username and password. This helps ensure that if the hacker(s) attempt to use the data that was breached, your old credentials will be rendered useless. Since often your username may be your email address, you may not always be able to change it post-breach. So your focus should be on making your new password as complex as possible (see #3 above). NOTE: If you use the same password for other accounts or websites (a big NO-NO... see #3 above again), be sure to change those, too!

  1. Don't get reeled in by the Phisher

Phishing is a high-tech scam that uses email spam to deceive consumers into disclosing their credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers or other confidential information. It works like this: a consumer receives an email thinking it's from a trusted source (i.e. their bank or credit card company). They click on a link which brings them to a "replicate" website that looks very much like the business they trust. They then try to log on, unintentionally providing the thief with their personal information. Keeping an eye out for phishing emails and not falling for the scam is an important way to protect online data.

To read more topics about identity theft and data privacy visit this section of our blog.

Rob Kaufman

Rob is a writer... of blogs, books and business. His financial investment experience combined with a long background in marketing credit protection services provides a source of information that helps fill the gaps on one's journey toward financial well-being. His goal is simple: The more people he can help, the better.