We operate in a digital world. Today, everything from your grocery shopping to your banking can be handled with a mouse click or screen tap. But that reliance on technology to manage our day to day lives can cause us to think less and click faster online. And that is what makes cyber-attacks – phishing, identity theft, malware, fraud – so insidious. The familiarity we feel with online transactions can blind us to red flags we need to see. So, what can we do to make sure we stay alert? And how can we setup protection around our digital footprint so that even when we aren’t vigilant, we remain secure? Here are some personal cybersecurity steps to take that will help protect you in a digital era.
- Make sure you have a secure connection. That starts with your home wi-fi. Do you have a strong and unique password on your home wireless router? Your router controls access to your wi-fi network, and through that, all your connected devices. It is important to be sure your wireless router is locked down.
- Don’t be a quick clicker. We all are bombarded by constant emails. And it can be tempting to quickly click through emails. But take your time. Don’t click on a link in an email if you can avoid it. And only do so if you are sure of the email source (and you are expecting an email from them). Instead, go directly to the website and login there. Shipping confirms, billing invoices, and other notifications can be easily spoofed.
- Password management is worth the effort. You can use a digital management system to help track and create strong passwords. Wired has a review of some of those options. But even if you end up using a notebook locked in a cabinet, make sure you put in the effort to create unique and complex password for your online logins.
- While we are on the topic of online logins, turn on multi-factor authentication where you can. It is a hassle but setting it up correctly can really help cut off options for someone looking to hack your accounts. And this isn’t just for your bank accounts, use multi-factor on your email if possible. Your email is the gateway to most of your online access. If your email is compromised, your password can be reset for many of your other logins.
- Set up alerts to help you keep an eye on your finances and your credit. Most banks and credit cards offer alert services for specific types of transactions. Additionally, credit monitoring can provide almost instant notification of changes to your credit file. A good list of credit monitoring options can be found on this review from the Balance. If you don’t want to use a credit monitoring service (they do have a lot of insight into your data), you can instead freeze your credit with each of the three credit agencies. If you do this, be aware that in order to setup new financing you will need to unfreeze your credit.
Cyber security is a part of your financial picture that can be easy to overlook or just inconvenient to pay attention to. But it is worth your time. For our clients, rest assured that Schwab takes the protection of your accounts as seriously as we do. In addition to their security protocols, they also offer the Schwab Security Guarantee, which will cover losses in your Schwab accounts due to unauthorized activity. You can read more about that and other steps you can take in this brief cyber security guide.