People can’t stop hackers or identity thieves from attempting to access, misuse or compromise personal data stored on companies’ servers. But individuals can take steps to minimize their exposure to cyber risks.
With that mind, now may be a good time for a cybersecurity check-in. Here are tips from on how to help keep your identity secure:
Keep your software updated
Software providers build security patches into their updates but they’re effective only if the user downloads and installs them promptly, notes Ellen Segriff, Head of Wealth Management Americas Privacy, Cyber and Information Security, UBS.
Be extra-cautious of in-email links
You may get an e-mail from what appears to be a legitimate source, such as a vendor you usually shop with online, asking you to provide or verify personal or account information by clicking on a hyperlink. Be wary of such e-mails, as they may be fake and take you to unwanted destinations! Hover over the hyperlinks to see where they are actually taking you before clicking.
Freeze your credit files report
If you think your Social Security number has been stolen or you’re otherwise at risk for identify theft, you can place a security freeze on your credit files with each of the national consumer reporting agencies. This can now be done for free. Blocking the release of your credit reports can help to prevent an imposter from opening a new account in your name without your knowledge. Bear in mind, though, that a security freeze may cause delays when you are opening a new account or new line of credit.
Don’t download anything suspicious
Be wary of unsolicited e-mails. Look carefully at a sender’s full e-mail address. It may look similar to a trusted address but contain subtle deviations, such as extra letters, numbers or symbols. “And whatever you do, don’t open or download the attachment!” stressed Segriff. “It may install malware on your computer and steal your keystrokes, like passwords, or do other harm.”
Use strong passwords
Have different passwords for each of your financial, banking, social media and e-mail accounts. Consider using a password manager, which encrypts and stores your passwords. Then you need to remember only one password to access the stored passwords.
Trust only secure sites
When submitting personal details (logins/passwords, credit card numbers, personal details, etc.) to a site, always check to see if the link begins with https://. The “s” stands for secure and uses encryption protocols to protect traffic.
Keep it cool at Wi-Fi hotspots
They’re not secure so don’t use them to conduct sensitive transactions, even if you have to get a password. Instead, use your personal hotspot on your smartphone or use a virtual private network (VPN).
Sign up for alerts offered by your credit card and other financial institutions that flag activity outside your normal pattern. “We found when clients signed up for alerts on their UBS credit cards, they were able to better monitor suspicious activity on their accounts,” said Keith Koval, UBS Executive Director, Head of Cyber Security and Fraud Management for WM USA Banking. Third-party services will also monitor activity for a fee.