How to Protect Your Data

With the recent breach of the credit monitoring company Equifax, it may seem like all your important personal information is available to any hacker. Everyday technology gets more complex. Companies have huge IT security teams working to make their data secure. At the same time cyber-criminals are trying to figure out how to crack into these companies.

The old way of keeping your valuables safe is no longer reliable. A lock and key won’t work for your computer. Even a password is easily compromised. There are, however, a few things you can do to try and protect yourself online.

1.       Create back-ups of your data. You can use an external hard drive, large USB, back-up to the cloud, use a third-party service, or any combination of these. It’s wise to have two back-ups just in case one goes down or gets broken or lost. You should create back-ups frequently, depending on how sensitive and/or important information is updated on your computer. Aim to back up your data at least once a month. This will protect you from physical damage to your computer and ransom-ware, where online pirates hack your computer, lock you out, and demand money. Even if you pay they don’t always release your data.

2.       Change your passwords frequently. It may seem like updating your passwords is a chore and very confusing, but it is your first line of defense. Most people reuse the same password or a variation of one for most of their log ins. If one password is hacked, then the hacker may be able to figure out your other passwords easier. Changing your passwords frequently helps to lock out hackers. For example, if someone hacks a database and your password is compromised it could be available for sale on the internet. If you change your passwords regularly then that information is valuable for only a short period of time. You may not know if you got hacked so it is good to change your passwords. To make keeping with all your passwords easier, there are apps called password safes. You have one log in into the safe and can access all your passwords in there. Change the safe password regularly as well.

3.       Install a security program on your computer. These programs will scan your computer for any viruses, or malware. Some scan your emails and web pages before you load them. They will alert you to suspicious content. Be sure to update them regularly so your protected from new attacks.

4.       Do not email sensitive, personal information. Email is inherently unsafe. If you have sensitive information to send then I recommend you use a cloud sharing system, like Google Drive, or an encrypted email service. As a CPA I deal with this issue frequently and will cover it more in depth in another article. For now, pause before you hit “send” and review that you aren’t sending any critical information.

5.       Pay attention to the news on new hacking schemes. New phishing schemes are developed every day. If you see a suspicious email you weren’t expecting don’t open it or any attachments. Cyber criminals are at work every day trying to devise clever tricks to get to your sensitive data and wallets. Keep up to date with what the new, common schemes are so you know what to avoid.

As a CPA this information is important for my clients and myself because most of us rely heavily on the internet. Part of my job is to keep the data clients trust me with safe. By following these tips, you can help yourself stay safe online. A major hack can interrupt your business operations and cost more than just paying to fix the hack or ransom; it costs you lost business, lost credibility, and potentially lost customer data. Let’s do what we can to stay safe online. 

As always, if you have any questions please add them to the comments or send me a message through the contact form.