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What You Should Know: Protecting Your Personal Information Online

Online Protection

Photo Credit: Flickr/Windell Oskay

What You Should Know: Protecting Your Personal Information Online

By Carolyn Hauck on August 25, 2015

Know the Risks: Protect Yourself Online

We invest money in security systems for our houses and cars, but how many of us are taking what is now considered necessary precautions to ensure our personal information and our identity is secure online? Online hacking now takes the cake as the largest security threat we face personally and nationally. It’s real a threat and taking a few relatively simple steps can keep your personal information safer online.

Sharing personal information

Don’t share detailed information like birthdays or zip codes on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram. All social media sites have privacy settings, so that only people you know can see your information. Facebook makes it really easy with their Privacy Checkup that you link to by clicking the lock icon in the top right corner. You can change your privacy settings, or go one step further and not input personal information at all; information that can be used to steal your online identity, like your birth date, the high school you attended, or your zip code.

Never give out personal information over the phone unless you were the person who dialed the number. If you receive a phone call or text asking for your personal information like your birth date or social security information, do not give it to them.

Using secure passwords

If you’re like most people, you have created passwords that are easy for you to remember, using serial digits and names of places or things that are important to you. Those types of passwords are easily hacked. There are a few different ways to handle password safety. First, you can take matters into your hands and create a unique, difficult password for each site you visit. A tip for creating difficult passwords is to write a sentence like, “I would like to see wild horses running some day,” and turn it into an acronym like, 1wL2CWhrSD. That process would involve keeping a hard copy list (not on your computer) somewhere so you would reference them if you forget them.

You can also consider taking advantage of two-step password authentication services like iCloud, Gmail and Yahoo that involves sending you a text every time you access your email from a different computer. This ensures that if a hacker figures out your password and tries to enter it from his or her computer, it won’t work.

You can also purchase password safety software like 1Password or Dashlane that generates difficult and complicated passwords that are impossible (hopefully) to figure out.

Shopping online

Because you enter credit card information when you shop online, many people, especially those in older age brackets, steer clear of online shopping altogether, but the majority of us, do some, if not nearly all, of our shopping online. For this reason, it’s important you know that you are shopping on a trusted website, like Amazon or eBay. Never input credit card information on a site that begins with http:; check to make sure it begins with https:. That “s” at the end stands for “Secure.”

If your credit card institution offers virtual credit cards, you should consider taking advantage of the program. Banks like Bank of America offer the service at no charge. Basically, every time you go to use your credit card online, the bank sends you a one-time number that’s linked back to your real credit card number. In essence, you are typing in a fake credit card in case a hacker is able to obtain the number during the encryption process.

Last, but certainly not least, you should make sure you have a good antivirus/malware program on your computer. Make sure it’s up-to-date by running those software updates whenever they pop up or do it manually through your computer’s settings and preferences.

Need help setting up better malware on your computer? Considering purchasing password software and want help installing it? Computer technicians can walk you through the process.