Staying one step ahead of cybercriminals

Five best practices for protecting your digital assets

21 Mar 2020

As more businesses embrace remote work environments, cybercriminals seize the opportunity to target less secure technologies. But there are ways you can protect your business and personal accounts. While your bank does a lot to keep these accounts secure, it takes good habits to stay one step ahead of online criminals. It's important to review your online accounts and digital assets to make sure they’re backed up, secured and optimized for your unique needs. Follow these five best practices to keep your money and other digital assets safe.

Key takeaways

  • Now that data breaches are commonplace, it’s essential to protect your digital assets from cybercriminals.
  • Using unique usernames and passwords for every account, safeguarding personal and professional wireless networks, moving important documents to a secure cloud for storage and making your devices theft-resistant can prevent cybercriminals from committing identity theft, larceny and blackmail.
  • To know when your accounts have been used by a third party without your permission, subscribe to receive alerts from your financial services providers when your account balances are strangely low, larger-than-usual transactions take place or other red-flag events occur.

1. Use unique passwords for every account

Stories about data breaches are commonplace these days. From credit card systems to e-mail providers, it seems few organizations are immune to the world’s most skilled hackers.

If your e-mail address and password are stolen from one organization, there’s a good chance those cybercriminals will try to use the same combination at your bank, investment firm and other online services to see if they can get in. In other words, account data lost during a single breach could make you vulnerable to identity theft, larceny and blackmail.

To avoid this fate, it’s a best practice to use unique usernames and passwords across every platform, including your social media, bank, e-mail and other online accounts. We recommend using a secure password manager, which will allow you to access dozen of websites and apps with a single password, despite having different usernames and passwords for each account.

2. Secure your home and small-business networks

When setting up your home or business Internet, be sure to select a strong password for your wireless network. You may also want to log into the router itself to change its username and password for an added layer of security.

Many routers feature the ability to view a list of connected devices. If you don’t recognize a device, block its access to your network. Some routers feature the ability to create a second network for guests. If yours allows, the FBI recommends putting smart devices on that network to further protect the computers and phones on your main wireless network.

3. Make your devices theft-resistant

While you’re likely always careful with the physical security of your phone, laptop and tablet, there’s always a small chance it will be lost or stolen. It’s important to have a backup plan for that unfortunate scenario.

You can use Apple, Android and Windows apps to track your device location and remotely wipe your data in the event your device is stolen. Be sure to set up strong passcodes for unlocking your devices and use timers to lock your devices after a period of no use. That way, if someone does get ahold of one of your devices, you can rest assured they won’t gain access to your data.

4. Move important files to a secure cloud

Businesses, governments and individuals are all vulnerable to viruses and malware. One particularly nasty type of malware is called ransomware. When infected, you can’t unlock your computer to get to your information unless you pay a ransom. Even if you pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee that you’ll regain access to your device.

It’s important to regularly back up important files, like family photos and financial records, to a secure cloud or encrypted external hard drive, as strong backup practices can keep your files safe from both viruses and cybercriminals.

5. Add alerts to your financial accounts

If someone does get your account number, or manages to duplicate your debit or credit card, you’ll want to know about it as soon as possible. Most online banking platforms will allow you to set up alerts for low balances, larger-than-usual transactions and other red flags. Banks already use sophisticated algorithms to identify and block fraud before it costs you anything, but adding a second layer of defense helps reduce your risk, keeping your financial resources out of the hands of cybercriminals.

You have the power to keep cybercriminals at bay

Technology and finance companies employ teams of cybersecurity experts who’re constantly working to protect you and your money. But they can only do so much without your help. Fortunately, there are basic steps you can take to secure your accounts.

Get started today, so you can rest easy tomorrow knowing that you’re one step ahead.

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