Even at the best of times, surfing the Web involves a delicate dance between security and freedom. After all, while you have the freedom to visit any site in the world, the thought that your favorite website might be infected with malware can put a dent in your plans. And, as the recent furor over the NSA, Prism, and the federal government’s access to our online information has highlighted, when it comes to privacy on the Internet, nobody is completely secure.
For years, security experts have offered a more-or-less unchanging menu of advice. But do things like shredding your documents and changing your passwords really keep you safe? Bo Holland, founder and CEO of identity theft protection company AllClearID shared his thoughts on the most important moves for ensuring your safety … as well as the ones that aren’t quite as important anymore.
- Shredding: For years, security professionals have emphasized the importance of shredding your personal documents before you throw them out. But Holland notes that shredding isn’t as much of a priority as it used to be. “There aren’t nearly as many documents with personal information out there as there were even just two years ago,” he explains. “These days, it’s much easier to get your information off your computer.”
Strong Passwords: Passwords are your first line of defense against intruders. But, as Holland points out, even the most careful people sometimes have password breaches. “I’ve helped chief privacy officers from health care and security firms,” he notes. “If they’re getting hit, then anyone is vulnerable.” While Holland notes the importance of having a good password, he emphasizes that the most important thing is paying attention to password breach notifications. If you hear that one of your passwords may have been breached, he counsels, change it immediately. And, because many of your accounts may be linked, he notes, it’s not a bad idea to change the rest of your passwords as well.
Keep on Top of Updates: One piece of advice that you don’t often hear is to keep on top of software updates. But, Holland argues, updating your operating system, your software, and your security programs is one of the easiest and most important ways to ensure your security. Software companies spend a lot of time and money trying to stay ahead of online intruders — it only makes sense to take advantage of their work.
Double-Check Your Financial Institution: Even if you are convinced that your security is state-of-the-art and your password is unbreakable, it never hurts to double-check your most sensitive accounts. Holland suggests regularly checking your financial and credit card statements to ensure that there aren’t any inappropriate charges on your accounts.
Set E-Mail and Text Alerts: When a breach happens, a fast response can mean the difference between a minor annoyance and a major pain in the neck. With that in mind, Holland suggests talking to your financial institution about having transaction alerts placed on your account. Every time your account is credited with a transaction over a particular amount — $50, for example — your financial institutions will send you an e-mail or text notification. If it’s an expected transaction, you can discard the message; if not, you’ll be able to respond immediately.
Check Your Free Credit Report: Every year, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the reporting bureaus. Holland suggests taking advantage of this free service, noting that your credit report is a great way to track your outstanding debts and ensure that nobody is trying to open false accounts in your name.
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- ID Theft Protection includes 1 credit bureau monitoring (Your TransUnion℠ credit report is monitored continuously for new or suspicious activity. If new activity occurs, an alert is sent via email and text message, allowing you to confirm whether or not the activity is fraudulent).
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