As technology progresses, our daily activities are moving online. This includes tasks that we may not think of as being particularly sensitive, such as shopping and banking. While this makes our lives easier in many ways, it also leaves us vulnerable to identity theft. Here are seven tips to protect your data and reduce your risk of it showing up on the dark web.
1) Shred sensitive documents
Shredding sensitive documents is an easy way to protect yourself against identity theft or data breaches. For example, when you receive junk mail that contains your personal information (such as pre-approved credit card offers), it’s best to cut up the document into pieces rather than just throw it in the garbage bin. This also goes for unsolicited checks in the mail and other unwanted or unsolicited offers. By cutting up or shredding these types of documents, you prevent someone else from stealing your personal information and more easily disposing of them. The same principle can be applied with old papers containing important information such as bank statements and tax returns – before throwing something away, ask yourself if anyone could get access to it if they took the paper out of your garbage can. If so, shred it!
2) Be cautious about what you post online
Before posting anything on Facebook or Twitter, ask yourself if you would be comfortable if everyone in the world read the information. The Internet is an amazing resource that can provide us with huge amounts of information right at our fingertips. However, it’s important to be aware that just because something is “just for friends” doesn’t mean that someone else won’t see your posts. Remember that this includes any selfies you may take – anyone could grab a picture off of your page, re-post it elsewhere, or even print it out and keep a copy long after you have deleted the original from your computer.
3) Ensure your passwords are strong
When choosing a password, it is very important to use diverse information that is difficult for others to guess. Avoid using real words or meaningful personal information in your passwords, even when combined with numbers or symbols. For example, “ilovemycat” might seem like an unlikely password choice at first glance, yet there are websites out there designed to reveal simple passwords such as these within seconds. A stronger approach would be to create a random string of characters and numbers, such as the phrase “I [email protected] mY cAt.” You could then add on some additional characters or numbers if you preferred that people not know which type of animal you love so much! The more complex and unique your password is, the better chance you have of keeping it safe.
4) Use two-factor authentication
An easy way to add another level of security when signing into websites such as Facebook or Gmail is to enable “two-factor authentication.” For example, after entering in your password, a unique code will be sent by text message to the phone number you provided when setting up two-factor authentication. The code must then be entered before you can access your account. This adds a layer of protection since a hacker would need more than just your password in order to get into your accounts – they would also need access to your cell phone! Note that certain banks may also offer this feature for accessing protected accounts via their online banking portal. If you are unsure, contact your bank to find out more about two-factor authentication.
5) Password protect your devices
Another way to prevent unauthorized access is by password-protecting your cell phone or tablet. You may think that this is unnecessary or unimportant, but it can actually be a very important step in securing your data and preventing others from accessing it without consent. For example, if you lose your phone somewhere where someone could pick it up off the ground (such as on public transit), they wouldn’t be able to access your device without knowing the PIN code for unlocking it first. This is an easy step that many people neglect yet protects against any potential personal information leaks through lost or stolen electronic devices.
6) Be mindful of when your software is updated
Another easy way to protect yourself from the latest security risks is by updating your software and programs promptly. Both Mac and PC users can agree that it’s not always fun to spend time shutting down what you’re doing to update your computer or phone, but it is important! You may even receive updates through your system itself, such as Apple OS X – make sure you accept all updates when they are available so that you can keep up with the latest versions of all programs installed on your devices.
7) Take precautions offline as well
While online precautions are important for protecting yourself against identity theft, physical protection of personal information at home should also be taken. If confidential documents are kept anywhere around the house, consider using security safes that can be locked. This makes it difficult for someone to come along and take your information or documents without checking first.
Identity theft is a difficult thing to deal with once it happens. You may never even realize what happened until you see your bank account information is used for purchases that you didn’t make or receive bills in the mail for items you haven’t purchased. While keeping sensitive information on your laptop or electronic device can be quite convenient, it is important that precautions are taken to prevent others from getting access. Make sure to use strong passwords that cannot easily be guessed by those trying to steal personal data from either online or offline sources. In addition, take steps such as enabling two-factor authentication and using password-protected devices to minimize the risk of identity theft without compromising convenience.