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Online Security

Because of the convenience of the internet and our connected devices, more of us are turning to mobile apps and online solutions to conduct different types of business. However, with this added convenience comes greater risk. These security measures will help to keep your personal information safe.

First and foremost, to keep your passwords safe, keep them to yourself. Another way to protect your accounts is to choose a password that is not easy to guess. Ideally, passwords should be at least 16 characters and comprised of a combination of numbers, symbols, uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and spaces. You will also want to avoid any repetition, dictionary words, usernames, pronouns, IDs, and any other default number or letter sequences.

Bruce Scheier, a computer security expert, suggests taking a personally memorable sentence and modifying it into a password. For example, the sentence “When I was 11, my sister made me fight the neighborhood bully” can be transformed into “Wiw11msmmFtnbully” (it should go without saying not to use this as a password). Instead, use this as a guide to create your own, unique password.

Also, using the same password for multiple accounts is a bad idea. Try to come up with a different password for each account. Worried you’ll have so many passwords that you’ll get them mixed up? Consider using a password manager to keep track of your different accounts and login information.

Despite the abundance of social media and text messaging to keep people connected, email is still frequently used. And, unfortunately, it is still susceptible to hackers. Spam and malicious attachments can be rather damaging, yet we still click on things we shouldn’t. If something looks fishy, or is unfamiliar to you, do NOT click on it or open it. If it comes from someone you know, but you weren’t expecting it, confirm with the sender before taking action.

Online Shopping
The convenience of shopping from the comfort of your own couch or bed has its perks, but it also has its downfalls. When you use your credit card to shop online, there is a risk of your information being stolen. This shouldn’t deter you from shopping online, however, you should be cautious about when and where you use your credit card.

First, you should only use your credit card on websites with the prefix “https”. The “s” indicates that the site is using a secure protocol to encrypt communications between you and the website. If it is missing, you may want to proceed with caution. You will often see the “https” prefix when you are looking at sensitive information on online banking sites.

Also, avoid sending your credit card details on unsecured websites, via email or on any social media sites (even in private messages). Do not give more information than necessary, such as your date of birth or social security number. If you have never purchased from a vendor before, you should double check the physical address and contact information before completing your order. It is advised that you do not do your online shopping on public Wi-Fi or public computers, and it’s best to use a payment method with buyer protection. Lastly, always log out after ordering.

Account Protection
When you log in to a site with a username and password, this is known as single-factor authorization. While this method is secure on its own, two-factor authorization boosts security. With two-factor authorization, after entering a username and password, you are also asked to provide another security credential, such as a fingerprint or unique pattern. While a person can gain access to your basic login information, they would not be able to pass without the second unique security credential, safeguarding your account information.

Mobile Device
When it comes to your smartphone, it seems like a no brainer that you should set a screen lock code. That way, if your phone is lost or stolen, a stranger cannot instantly access all of your smartphone’s contents. For iPhones, you will want to set a 6 digit passcode – the added digits make it harder for someone to guess.

Aside from a screen lock code, you should disable any tracking options, whether it is tracking your location or the websites you visit for advertisement purposes, and prevent apps from uploading your information. You may want to block your phone number as well, since some companies may collect it and any information attached to it and use it for profit. Along the same lines, avoid answering spam calls as this may confirm that the number reaches an actual person and your number may be sold to other companies, thus increasing the number of spam calls and texts you may receive.

Use a recovery app in case of emergencies. Whether you simply misplaced your phone, forgot it in a public place, or someone stole it from you, recovery apps are designed for you to track the location of your phone and even lock or wipe your phone as necessary. If a Good Samaritan happens to stumble upon your lost phone, you may want to provide owner contact information, but keep it minimal. Stick to a first name and last initial, and a phone number of a friend or family member to contact if lost.

The best defense against losing or having your smartphone stolen is to keep it close to you. Store it in a tight, front pocket, or in a deep pocket of a big bag.

When there’s a will, there’s a way, and if a hacker is determined on getting his hands on your information, he just might. However, employing these security tactics helps you maintain control and makes it harder for hackers to reach that goal.

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