How to Protect Your Data: 4 Commandments for Your Information

Everyone likes to take their health and personal well-being seriously today, but do you feel the same about your personal data? The fact is that your personal information is just as valuable as your physical self – stolen data can result in credit issues, drawn-out legal battles and even trying to clean up your social reputation if yours isn’t protected. Read on to find out how you can take just as good care of your data as you do yourself:

Commandment #1: Install and Update Antivirus and Malware-Removal Programs

If you don’t already have antivirus and malware software installed on your computer, do it right this instant. You’re already susceptible to viruses, and may have someone stealing your information as you read this. Even if you think you don’t have any sensitive information on your computer, your personal photos, log-ins and even emails are game until you get something to keep these crooks at bay.

If you already have software installed to take care of this problem, make sure it’s updated. New viruses and malware are popping up online every day, and you have to make sure you have the latest version of security software to make it work correctly. Schedule regular scans of your computer at least every 30 days.

Commandment #2: Keep Your Passwords Secure and Updated

Never, ever keep your passwords in a file called “passwords,” or choose to make any of your passwords “password.” This is the most common choice for log-in information, and it’s too easy to guess. Don’t share your log-in information with anyone – not even your own mother – because you never know where that information will end up.

Always set a reminder to change your passwords every 90 days, and never save them on shared or company devices. A secure password should not include any personal information about you, and should always include the following:

  • Upper – and lowercase letters
  • Numbers
  • Symbols

Also never, ever use the same passwords between accounts to protect yourself if one of them is ever hacked. It’s far better to lose information on only one site versus several.

Commandment #3: Exercise Caution When Using Public Networks and Computers

As we told you above, you should never store sensitive account information such as log-ins on a public computer or on your own when using a public network. Although free wi-fi is both convenient and popular among many restaurants and coffee shops, these are a hub for hackers that can watch your every move if they know what they’re doing.

Never conduct sensitive account activity while using a public device or network. Don’t do any of the following while you’re using someone else’s Internet connection:

  • Transfer funds
  • Log in to bank accounts
  • Open sensitive documents

When you’re using your personal Internet at home that requires a password to log in, you’re far more secure to conduct such personal business.

Commandment #4: Never Share Personal Information on Unsecure Sites

If you aren’t familiar with security certificates, or SSL, get to know them immediately. Online shopping and funds transfer services are all susceptible to hackers. Security certificates tell you the site you’re using has the updated ware to thwart efforts to steal your information, and that there is a private connection between you and the company’s server.

When you’re checking out with a retailer, make sure the SSL certificate is current. Your browser may also provide a pop-up to tell you to stop using the site if their security certificate is expired. When you’re on a website, you should see a little padlock in the browser bar that tells you it’s a secure site. Otherwise, there may be a warning that it’s not secure. Your browser should offer one of the following warnings to the left of the web address:

  • Secure
  • Info or Not Secure
  • Not Secure or Dangerous

On the same note, if you ever receive notification from a company you do business with that they have had a security breach, change all log-in information with them immediately. Also keep a regular eye on your credit report to make sure you know about any fraudulent account activity or new accounts you didn’t open. Just practicing your due diligence and looking over monthly statements can also help raise a flag when needed. If you notice any strange charges or activity you didn’t authorize, call your financial institution immediately.