Online Security Strategies

Don’t let thieves steal your personal information.

Your home may be equipped with sturdy locks and the latest security system, but you are still vulnerable to theft unless you protect your wireless devices with the same vigilance. Don’t forget that access to the whole world from your home computer or mobile device means that the whole world potentially has access to you.

But keep in mind that most criminals seek the path of least resistance. Here are a few simple steps you can take to lessen the chances of becoming a victim at home or on the road.

Protecting your home
Once your DSL or cable modem delivers the Internet connection to your house, your router makes that connection available to your wireless devices. Be sure to activate your system’s wireless protected access (WPA) settings. WPA2 with AES offers the latest protection.

Wireless routers often come with blank or uniform passwords, so be sure to change yours immediately. Consider withholding the password from your kids, who might inadvertently share it with others. Change your network name (known as SSID) to something specific to you (but not your name or address). And, check to make sure your router’s firewall is turned on. Firewalls, often called SPI (for stateful packet inspection), offer a first line of defense against someone trying to enter your system, and every precautionary measure helps.

Going mobile
Precisely because they’re so convenient, your mobile devices are especially vulnerable to a security breach. And because we use them for everything from shopping to banking to communicating, the information they contain is invaluable.

Before you purchase a device, check in advance to make sure the manufacturer has tracking software to help locate it or enables you to remotely delete the data. If your device is ever lost or stolen, you’ll be grateful for these security features.

You can also help protect yourself by using start-up and auto-lock passcodes, not leaving your device unattended and carrying it hidden from view. Be sure to connect to wireless networks that have WPA2 (see above) encryption.

Be discerning in the apps you download online. Only install those from reputable stores, and consider what information (i.e. contacts, locations, information about your social networks) the apps will be accessing.

Emails that appear to be from established companies or even close friends or family members may actually be from criminals trying to get you to reveal personal information or find their way into your computer. It’s called “phishing,” and it’s on the rise.

Be suspicious of any email asking for personal information or urging quick action on something unexpected. If you have doubts, delete the email without opening it. Never open an attachment or click on a link from a suspicious email. Once opened, an attachment may install malicious software to access your personal financial information. Even if you trust the sender, avoid clicking links delivered via email, especially to sites where you may be asked to share a user ID or password.

These few simple precautionary steps won’t take much time or energy, but they may help discourage cyber criminals from stealing valuable information from you and your family.

What’s your password?
If you do a lot of shopping or if you manage your finances online, you’re probably creating a login for each of the sites and services you use most. One of the best ways to protect yourself (especially while you’re banking or dealing with insurance matters online) is to choose a complex password. But between all the usernames and passwords, it’s nearly impossible to keep the letters, numbers and symbols straight.

Online password managers are services that remember your every last login and keep them safely encrypted. Just commit the single master password to memory, and make it a strong one. These three options can help boost your online security.

KeePass. This password utility, compatible with PCs and Macs, is free and super simple.

Clipperz. A free online Rolodex, of sorts, this option also stores other confidential goods, like credit card and bank account numbers.

SplashData. Choose the $20 SplashID to link your mobile device with your desktop account, so you can access your passwords anywhere.

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