In this post from Productivity Matters, never has online security been more important, as we constantly hear about systems being hacked and our private information being stolen.
All it takes are a few simple steps to prevent this from happening to you.
I’ll explain more about online security.
How seriously do you think about your online security? Regularly? Once a month? Never? More and more we're being reminded about the need to keep our personal information safe and secure, and never to divulge anything that could identity us to would-be hackers or thieves.
There are many ways in which your information can be obtained by nefarious players.
Phishing is one of the most common. Ever more intricate and daring, the conmen and women find ways to get you to divulge your credit or debit card information, giving them access to your money.
So often we are reminded to not give out ANY information without being absolutely certain that the person we are talking to is genuine.
The newest type of scam is where an email is intercepted, and scammers use the information to request payment for some work. You're expecting this email, and when they give you the bank details, you don't think twice. BUT - is this the real person? It's important not to interact with these people and make the checks yourself, before paying.
The more technical will attempt to get your details direct from the databases that contain them. Through finding loopholes and breaches in security, they can steal card information, from which they can then go forth and spend.
Stealing passwords is also a major problem - access to your account is immediately available.
There are many steps you can take to protect your identity, some of which are really basic, and others are more involved - but all of them, when used in conjunction with each other will help secure your data.
First and foremost; keep ALL your passwords safe. When was the last time you changed your password? Do you use more than one password for your accounts? How strong is your password?
One of the most common mistakes is using the same password; usually made up of a family name or date of birth, across multiple online accounts.
If one account is compromised; it won't take long for the hackers to try your password against other accounts, and 'hey presto', your data is gone!
You have passwords for banking, online shopping, cinema, travel - you name it, there will be a whole host of accounts.
I'll come on to ways to save passwords shortly.
Two Factor Authentication
Another, relatively easy way to stay safe is to use two factor authentication. Also known as multi factor authentication, this requires a secondary device to login to an account.
The simplest and most convenient device is your mobile phone.
When this is set up, the next time you login, you'll be prompted to enter a code from your phone, into the account login page. Without this code, access will be denied.
So, even if someone does steal your password, without your phone, they can't access your account.
Codes can be received via a text message from the provider, or via an app installed on your phone. It adds an extra step to the process; but this far outweighs the problems if someone pretends to be you.
Earlier, I mentioned how you probably have the same password for multiple accounts; and the dangers this can pose to your personal data.
In recent years, there has been an increase in Password Managers, designed to help you create and manage your passwords.
I use LastPass; and at last count, it is storing over 200 passwords (as well as other useful information). With it all safely encrypted and stored, I can rest assured that my details are secure.
When I login to an account, using the browser plugin, LastPass automatically identifies the site I'm on and pre-populates my username and password. Simple. I don't even know what the password is, in some cases.
Because I don't have to remember each one, they can be as strong as possible; making guessing them virtually impossible.
If I create a new online account, I use LastPass to generate the password for me; creating a random, unique string of letters and numbers that mean nothing.
Of course, I do need to remember the password of my actual LastPass account - but this is something I created since I only need to remember that one.
It's also a good idea to regularly change passwords. And, if you're made aware of a breach of security at one of the sites you use, then definitely change it as soon as possible.
Again, LastPass can manage this for you; in some cases with just one click; making it as simple as possible to keep your information safe.
So, what about cost? What price security and peace of mind.
It costs a very reasonable $24 per year (which at the time of this podcast is about £18).
For the equivalent of $48, you can have a family plan, for up to 6 people.
I don't think this is expensive. I've been using it for a number of years, and it amazes me the number of people who continue to use the same password everywhere.
Whilst I use LastPass and have been extremely happy; there are other alternatives, such as Dashlane and 1Password. If you have an Apple iCloud account, you can store passwords in the keychain; and Google has their own equivalent of a password manager, for use in Chrome.
Staying safe online doesn't have to be hard, and almost certainly must be continuously thought about.
There are simple steps:
Don't write passwords down where they can be easily found
Don't write PIN numbers down
Never give out your credit or debit card PIN
Change passwords frequently
Use different passwords everywhere
Don't succumb to pressure of 'this offer ends really soon'.
If in doubt - say nothing. Make checks first before you continue with the transaction. If the company or person is legitimate then they'll understand.
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