Cybersecurity Tips for Protecting Your Identity
To celebrate National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we compiled our top 10 tips for protecting your identity online. Now, as Americans are spending more time than ever online for work, school, and shopping, it’s important to brush up on your cybersecurity knowledge and take care of “low-hanging fruit” like changing your password from “abc123” to something more complex. If you have any questions about the security of your Bank of Washington accounts, our friendly and knowledgeable employees are here to help!
1. Encrypt your data.
Before shopping online or logging into an account, make sure your Internet browser bar has a padlock icon on it. This is a sign of a secure website where your sensitive personal and account information should be safe when transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.
2. Keep your passwords private and unique.
Change your passwords regularly, even if it’s not a requirement. If you use the same password for years, it may have been exposed in a data breach and then someone can easily log into your account to steal your data or money. You can check if any of your accounts have been involved in a data breach by visiting https://haveibeenpwned.com/.
Similarly, don’t use the same password for more than one account. It may be a hassle, but you wouldn’t want someone who gets a hold of your Netflix password, for example, to then be able to log into your bank account.
When creating a new password, avoid simple or obvious combinations. Also, don’t use personal information that could be easily available through social media, such as your birthday or the names or your kids or pet. Strong passwords are on the longer side and consist of a mix of characters, numbers, and symbols.
Finally, don’t share your passwords with anyone, and especially over social media, email, text message, or other forms of written communication.
3. Keep your operating system and software/apps updated.
Automate OS and software updates to make sure you’re always running the current and most secure version of any OS, software, or apps you’re using. This goes for all your devices, including smartphones, laptop or desktop computers, and tablets. Don’t ignore those software update reminders!
4. Destroy sensitive physical and digital data.
From medical bills to tax returns, your home and hard drive both contain sensitive documents and paperwork. Once you no longer need these records, dispose of them safely through shredding. Before getting rid of a device, make sure to wipe it clean of any personal information.
5. Give your Wi-Fi a security check-up.
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) keeps your network and Internet activity secure. So, add a password if you don’t have one already to prevent strangers from spying on your activities.
If you use public Wi-Fi networks, such as the local library, don’t conduct online shopping or log in to any sensitive accounts. Open networks are more vulnerable to hackers and other cyber threats.
You can also use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to create a safer online experience for yourself, whether with your Wi-Fi network at home or out in the world.
6. Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).
2FA is the best way to protect your accounts from unauthorized sign-ins. After you enter your username and password, you’ll be prompted to provide a second credential, such as a temporary security code sent to your cell phone. Many types of accounts, from email to retirement accounts, already require 2FA. If it’s not a requirement, you can set it up on your own to ensure maximum security for your sensitive personal and financial information.
With 2FA, you’ll also receive fraud alerts any time someone tries unsuccessfully to login to your account. This is a sign that your password may be compromised, and you should change it straight away.
7. Avoid Oversharing on Social Media.
Be mindful of what you post on social media. In particular, hackers will look for the answers to your security questions on your social accounts. For example, will they be able to learn what city you were married in, your mother’s maiden name, etc.?
One way to protect your personal information online is to adjust your privacy settings for each of your social media accounts to only share your posts with people you know/accepted as friends or followers.
And of course, you should never share sensitive personal information on social media, in posts or messages. Also beware of letting people know when you’re away from home, which could make you vulnerable to a burglary.
8. Make up your security question answers.
Speaking of security questions, one way to keep cyber criminals off your trail is to make up your answers or type in a “nonsense” combination of letters. This may require you to keep track of the answers somewhere, but it’s an easy way to improve your account security.
9. Throw out the post-its and get a Password Manager.
We realize that creating unique passwords for each account and making up security question answers gives you a lot more to remember. Instead of reaching for a notepad or sticky note, try a password manager such as Dashlane, LastPass, or OneLogin. All offer added security as well as organization—no need to remember everything on your own anymore.
10. Look out for fraud or identity theft with free credit reports.
Under Federal Law, you can receive free credit reports from three of the main credit reporting bureaus. Usually you only get one from each company per year, but currently everyone can access their free reports once a week through April 2021.
Once your free credit report access is just annual again, space out all three instead of getting them at once. That way you’ll be able to monitor your credit for free throughout the year. When reviewing your credit report, look for anything out of the ordinary such as accounts you don’t recognize, derogatory marks, unusual balances, or inquiries, etc.
Bank of Washington is here to help protect your identity online!
At Bank of Washington, we LOVE technology but also know it can make you vulnerable to fraud, identity theft, and other cybersecurity threats. That’s why we have a variety of tools and resources to help our customers stay safe online:
- Sign up for Fraud Alerts from Bank of Washington to monitor and detect suspicious account activity.
- Protect your personally identifiable information with Identity Shield from Bank of Washington.
- Learn more with our Fraud & Identity Protection resources.