Protecting Your Online InformationSubmitted by Brian Gaffney on May 5th, 2016
Protecting your online information
By John P. Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST, RLP®
Internet security means more than avoiding devious websites or immediately deleting suspicious email. It is more than refusing to sign up for certain sites where some of your personally identifiable information may be housed such as your financial accounts, insurance policies or tax returns.
We’ve talked before about online financial accounts. Just because you don’t sign up or choose to access information doesn’t mean your personal information is not already out there for some cyber criminals hacking. But what may be damaging is when you eventually sign up for credit card statements, IRA accounts or anything financial for online access and use the same user ID and password for everything. Hackers are everywhere, and they’ve got computers running 24/7 attempting to gather information from any source known to mankind. They can take information from anywhere you may leave digital fingerprints and attempt to corroborate it with other information they’ve gleaned about you from any number of websites or servers where data may be stored.
There is no iron clad solution to prevent becoming a victim of cybercrime or identity theft online, but taking a few precautions may mitigate your odds.
Using different usernames for any sites you register for is a good start. Avoid having every computer, website and online account utilize the same username or ID. Avoid ID’s tied to your name, address, job, date of birth or children’s names. In fact, any user ID tied to some personal fact about you is not advised.
Password usage is also a significant component. Just like usernames, you should avoid anything easily discoverable or overly simple. The majority of people use the same password for everything or use simple passwords. Security experts recommend using lower case and upper case, special characters, meaningless misspelled words and random characters. Even password hints may be problematic if they are the same. The recommended length is now an intolerable 24 characters or more.
As you do sign up for various websites from news sources to social media, security experts advise using different personal information for each one. For example, if you are truthful about your birthday on 50 different sites, that information is easier cross referenced than someone using a different month, date or year for each site. Of course, some sites require you to be truthful, such as getting your driver’s license renewed. But for social media or non-specific sites, you may be better off not publishing your birthday or using a different month, day and year for each.
The real problem isn’t only your protection, it is remembering all of the varying user ID’s and passwords you’ve set up. For that, I don’t have a solution – but we all need a system that works.