With the advance in technology, we find ourselves living a more and more online life. Basically everything including shopping, banking, reading, paying bills, almost everything is undertaken online. Leading an online life also makes us vulnerable to opportunistic hackers, located all over the globe, engaged in perpetual efforts to steal our identity and eventually our money. This article is a compilation of some useful tips to assist you in keeping your private information private.
1.Secure your network – One of the most important steps in protecting your identity is securing your network, both at work and at home. With appropriate firewalls or internet security in place, a hacker cannot easily enter your network and steal your personal information. Check the seemingly unimportant documents that came packed with your router, you will learn how to lock your router and encrypt your information. Taking this step will secure your network and make it quite inaccessible for an outsider. It also helps to ensure that a good and valid antivirus has been installed in your computer.
2.Set up banking alerts – Numerous financial institutions offer various alert services including email and sms alerts to notify the account holder about occurrence of various incidents like expenditure over $500 or $1000. These alerts will keep your abreast of your banking situation and will inform you about unauthorised access as soon as possible.
3.Watch over your credit card usage - Steer away from using credit cards in small retailers or shifty looking places, because staff and software in the computers at the counters can store your credit card details for unauthorised usage. Opting for cash payments as often as practicable, can save your headache and heartache in later years.
4.Make purchases on trusted websites – While purchasing online, it is wise to visit reliable and authentic websites like Ebay. Venerable websites like Ebay have excellent insurance policies in place which ensure that should you get duped by a seller, Ebay will reimburse you provided that you meet all their requirements. Smaller sites can be relied upon should they offer secure modes of payment like Paypal.
5. Learn to be prudent – Being prudent, amongst other things, mean not believing that random email that promises that, you have just won 900,000 pounds or you have just been selected as the lucky winner of an Apple Mac or you could lose 10kgs in 2 days by applying only 1 top secret dieting tip. Most of these email or sms notifications require you to respond by providing your personal details as well your bank details. If you are thinking prudently or have seen enough of these spam notifications then you would know that, these are nothing but opportunistic spammers trying to get you to part from your identity and money.
One tip to identify spam emails is to check the url link. If you are in Australia then there is much to doubt if you receive an unknown friend's email from Russia or America. Further, if you are in Australia what the chances of you winning 900,000 pounds are, at the very least it should be 900,000 AUD dollars. No pun intended. You may also consider installing a spam-filtering software.
6. Make life harder for hackers – Be leery of websites and sweepstakes that request personal information for seemingly unreasonable reasons. It may be alright to give away your name but do not give out the entire package comprising of your name, date of birth, home address, email address, tax file number, licence number, bank details and so on. It is your information and it is often in your control as to whether you wish to hand it out.
7. Do not use private information on public computers- This tip entails to using public computers in local libraries, work computers, internet cafes and accessing websites likes Facebook and bank websites. I once found someone's Facebook profile was still logged in when I accessed a computer in an internet café. Always log out completely and never choose to save login information on these public computers.
8. Strong passwords – Choosing hard and strong passwords should become a second nature to you. Avoid using your name, date or birth, family members' names or words that can be found in dictionary, as your passwords. As a rule of thumb, a strong password should be at least 8 characters long and should be made up of alphabets, numbers and symbols. Veer away from using previous passwords or slighted distorted versions of previous passwords. Further, try to change passwords regularly and use distinct passwords for different accounts.
9. Be conservative – Hackers come in all shapes and forms. In today's world, it is more than plausible that you have in the very least a Facebook account, a Linkedin account, a Twitter account, a blog and several email addresses. Try to make it a habit to refrain from publishing all your personal information including your Resume, bank details and personal images. Hiding your Facebook profile from a search engine, only adding people you know as your Facebook friends and not incorporating too much of your family and work life details are only some of the myriads of ways you can protect your identity.
Identity theft has become more prolific in recent years. Whatever information you give out in various websites and post in numerous social media sites is being archived, copied, backed up and analysed by various third parties, even after you may have deleted those information. So next time you get the urge to hand over your personal information, Stop, Think and Publish.