How to Protect Your Personal Privacy and Security Online
October 10, 2019 by Emma Gordon
What does Capital One now have in common with Equifax, HBO, and Uber? They’ve all been hacked. The credit card company is the one of the latest targets of hackers in one of the biggest data breaches in banking history. It exposed the personal information of 106 million people across the U.S. and Canada.
Although this breach was one for the books, news of the breach isn’t shocking. In a digital world, large-scale data breaches – which may lead to smaller instances of identity theft – can happen. According to a Pew survey on cybercrime, 64 percent of Americans have experienced a major data breach.
Having your personal information tapped can have a big impact on your finances. Cybercriminals can pretend to be you, and leave you on the hook for loans and maxed out credit cards.
Depending on the nature of the account, fraudulent charges may be difficult to reverse, so you want to do everything in your power to make sure this information never falls into a criminal’s hands.
Check out the list below for online safety and security tips.
But First, What is Cybercrime?
To put it simply, cybercrime is any illegal activity using a computer, but it usually takes place online. The Internet widens the net criminals cast, so they may reach millions of victims all over the world.
In many cases, they’re after personal information and corporate data, but there are plenty of different ways to commit cybercrime.
The Most Common Types of Cybercrime
The most common types of cybercrime include:
- Identity theft
- Terrorist activities
How to Prevent Cybercrime — How to Protect Your Online Privacy
There’s a lot of overlap between preventing cybercrime and protecting your online privacy. Some of the same things you do to thwart cybercriminals may help strengthen your online security.
Check out the online safety and security tips below.
1. Make Strong Passwords
Your last four digits of your phone number may be an easy password to remember, but you don’t want to use it.
Along with your child’s name, date of birth, and the word “password”, may be some of the worst possible passwords you can have protecting your online privacy.
Bad passwords tend to contain personal information that’s easy to find with a little snooping, or they contain common words that are easy to guess right off the bat.
So how do your passwords stand up? If you need to make some changes, online privacy experts recommend that a strong password should include:
- At least eight characters (The longer it is, the harder it is to figure out. Just make sure you can remember it!)
- Upper-case letters
- Lower-case letters
- Special symbols (Like @(#&!%^)
Don’t Repeat it
By these rules, a password like “HD9^ma45!bswo=3” would be incredibly tough to figure out. But once you land on a password as robust as the one above, don’t stick with it for every online account you have.
If you take out personal installment loans online, make sure your account has a different password from any other account you have. Overuse could poke holes in an otherwise uncrackable code, so make a unique password for each account.
Save it Wisely
Admittedly, a password like “HD9^ma45!bswo=3” is a lot harder to remember than “Buddy123”. If you’re having trouble committing your uncrackable password to memory, resist the urge to let your browser remember it for you — especially if you use Chrome.
If someone has access to your Google profile, they’ll be able to see your saved passwords by visiting chrome://settings/passwords.
Yikes! Instead, you may want to try using one of these password managers to help.
2. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Have you ever attempted to sign in to your line of credit loan account or credit card account online and had to enter a time-sensitive code sent to your phone? If so, you’ve already used multi-factor authentication.
Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of protection to your accounts. Usually, it involves two steps, but it may use three.
Typically, first you’d have to chose a password for your account.
Second, you may have to provide an additional piece of information that only you would know. Sometimes, this comes as a passcode sent to a secondary account, like your phone or email. You may only have a certain amount of time to enter this passcode before it becomes invalid.
If there is a third step, it may involve sharing your biometric data. You may already use this if you have a Pixel, an iPhone, or a Samsung Galaxy. These phones may scan your fingerprint or face to unlock your device.
If this third step is enabled, you’ll have to share a fingerprint, retinal scan, or a scan of your face when logging in. This last step is hard to fake, so it’s far more likely that it’s actually you logging into your account.
3. Read the Terms and Conditions
Download first, ask questions second. It’s a philosophy that a lot of us follow when we’re online, but it could get us into trouble.
Most recently, some people who downloaded FaceApp to their phones were worried they signed their privacy away to Russia by aging their selfies. This app uses artificial intelligence to enable users to manipulate pictures of themselves. You can look younger, older, or make other changes to your face by uploading or taking a picture through the app.
In actuality, it’s not that simple. However, FaceApp does raise concerns about the access we grant apps and services without really understanding them.
For a lot of people, terms and conditions may be boring. They’re usually lengthy lists chockfull of legalese, which may put off even the most determined readers.
But stick with it. It’s the only way to understand fully how a company plans to use, store, and protect your personal information.
Here at MoneyKey, we keep things simple. You’ll always find online loans from MoneyKey transparent and simple to understand. The same goes for our FAQ page, resources, and blog.
4. Don’t Get Hooked by Phishing Scams
Most of us believe we’re a pretty good judge of things on the Internet. But in reality, a lot of us get duped. Tech giant Google says the best phishing websites have a 45 percent success rate.
Phishing scams involve luring a victim into clicking a link, downloading an attachment, or sharing personal information.
Some, like the now infamous Nigerian Prince scam, may be easier to spot. They promise untold riches if you send them your bank account information. They’re usually full of broken English and come from an unusual email address.
But others are trickier to catch. They impersonate familiar brands or the people in your contacts, using the exact same formatting, wording, and logos to trick you out of your data and your money.
At first glance, they seem legitimate, but with a keen eye, you’ll be able to spot warning signs, like:
- Unusual requests: Scammers often try to get you to respond to their email directly, asking you to share things like your Social Security Number or bank account number in a reply. If a company does need this information, they’ll ask you to log in to update your profile.
- Strange links and URLs: Hover your mouse over any link that asks you to log in, and you’ll see the destination show up in a small window. Read this carefully to make sure it’s a legitimate business website and not a clever fake. Pay close attention to the sender to double check it’s a real email address coming from a familiar contact or brand.
- Threatening language: A reputable company will never try to intimidate you into sharing personal or financial information.
- Bizarre payments: Scammers posing as the IRS, utility companies, or financial organizations may say you owe them money and that you have to pay with gift cards. While safe cash advance lenders may contact you about your payment schedule, no legitimate financial institution will ever ask you to pay off a debt with gift cards.
- Unexpected attachments: Always check who the sender is when you receive an attachment. Do you recognize it? A scam usually has something strange going on with its domain or URL. Even if the sender is familiar, hover over it to see the file’s destination. If it looks fishy, don’t click it.
Think you can spot a phishing scam a mile way? Take this Google test to see how you really do. It walks you through common phishing techniques that get people hook, line, and sinker.
5. Visit Trusted Websites
The above advice goes for any browsing you do online — from reading the news to shopping for holiday gifts. And for the most part, this is easy advice to follow. You might have your favorite sites bookmarked, and you may already spend most of your time browsing these familiar places.
But sometimes, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of links, and where you end up isn’t always somewhere you want to be.
Maybe when scrolling through message board comments or hunting for discounts, you unknowingly visit a predatory site.
You may also notice that something isn’t right with the address bar. It doesn’t matter which browser you’re using, a website should start with an “https://” before the URL. This stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, and it means the site you’re visiting has purchased the appropriate security certificates.
To the left of the URL, you should also see a locked padlock. If you hover your mouse over this icon, you’ll see more information about your connection. This is especially important if you’re on a website where you’re asked to input any personal information.
6. Use Anti-Virus Software
Of course, few of us are perfect. Even with knowing what to look out for, you can accidentally click a link that’s meant to do you harm.
Maybe it happens one day at work when you’re in a hurry, so you aren’t paying attention to the unexpected and unusual attachment your co-worker supposedly wants you to see. Or perhaps it happens later that night when you’re over-tired, searching online for the perfect anniversary gift for your partner.
Anti-virus software is there to help when you make a mistake. It runs virus, firewall, and malware protection whenever you browse, and it will review site requests and downloadable files before they get a chance to infect your computer.
If you don’t already have anti-virus software on your computer, check out this guide to help find the right one for your habits and budget.
7. Don’t Shop Online with Debit Cards
When you want a new pair of shoes, you may be more likely to open a new web browser than the doors of the nearest shoe store. Online shopping makes ticking things off your list easier, faster, and much more convenient.
But it isn’t without risks to your online security.
At the checkout page with your new pair of shoes, you might have the option to enter your debit card as payment. Although some people may tell you to use debit over credit when possible, online security experts recommend you don’t use a debit card online if you have the option of using a credit card (and can pay off your purchase right away).
If a criminal gets hold of your debit information, they may be able to access all the money in your checking account. And if they drain that money, you may never see it again. Generally, debit cards don’t have as much fraud protection as credit cards.
It all depends on how quickly you notice the fraud. If it takes you more than 60 days, you may not have much luck recovering the lost money.
Although shopping online with a credit card may expose you to the same cybercrime, the effects may not be as damaging. A scammer may be able to run up a tab on your credit card, but they most likely will not be able to touch the money in your other accounts. And in many cases, if you have a credit card with good fraud protection, you may not be responsible for what your fraudster spends.
8. Use Free Wi-Fi Carefully
If you have a phone plan with a strict cap on data, you’re may always be on the prowl for free Wi-Fi. Unsecured networks offered by businesses around town are an easy work-around to your restrictive data limits.
Just be careful what you do while you’re on these networks.
Free, unsecured networks are open to anyone within their range. While your neighbor in the café probably isn’t doing anything nefarious with this connection as they sip on their latte, there is a chance someone is taking advantage of this shared network.
People with enough know-how can see the private data of any device connected to the same network. These fraudsters can see any login credentials you supply.
That’s not to say you should never use public Wi-Fi. You can use it to learn more about credit scores and budgeting techniques. Just don’t use it to shop, check your bank account, or apply for an online loan. Leave that for when you’re back at home, where your connection is hopefully more secure.
Online Security is Essential
There are always going to be risks, no matter what you do. The same goes for any time you go online. But that doesn’t mean you have to go off-grid to be safe. There’s a way to enjoy the convenience of the Internet without worrying about cybercrime every time you log on.
The trick is to be aware of the threats and share your data carefully. Remember the online safety and security tips from above and make them part of your everyday routine. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for an online loan or looking for a stream of the latest summer blockbuster. These proactive tips may help you protect your online privacy.