Businesses in the United States have been pushed into a new era due to Covid-19.
Businesses need to be able to operate with some new efficiencies due to social distancing rules and quarantines in place. As such, many are not working from home or teleworking. This digitalization of the economy and the workplace didn’t just happen overnight, but it might have for some. However, this move to working from home also brought with it was an increase in threats from cyberattacks as employers cannot monitor their employees with the same level of diligence.
Taking the good with the bad
There is little doubt online communications have changed the world. On the positive side, the Internet allows people to gather and share information, facilitates marketing and sales of goods, supports communication in real time across great distances, and gives people the ability to do much more. It has also allowed countless businesses to continue to operate in 2020 during a pandemic. On the negative side, the Internet may expose users to bullying, stalking, and privacy violations. In addition, the storage and transfer of electronic data –including personal information, credit card numbers, and other data –led to a cybercrime wave.
According to Consumer Affairs, those over age 80 experience the greatest median amount of financial loss even though younger adults lose money to fraud more often. Additionally, a common target of identity theft is the deceased, with roughly 2.5 million deceased identities stolen per year.
An ounce of protection
Ben Franklin once wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That is certainly the case when it comes to protecting your personal data. Here are a few suggestions for securing your personal information online:
- Protect your accounts: Choose strong passwords that incorporate letters, numbers, and symbols and, just as importantly, do not use the same password for all of your accounts. If you’re prone to forgetting passwords, keep a password list in your safe or invest in security software that will track passwords for various sites and allow you to access them with a single password.
- Look for security: If you make purchases online, be sure you have a secure connection. Look at the website address. If it starts with ‘https’ or shows a green box with a padlock, typically the connection is secure. It’s also essential to equip your computers and mobile devices with security software.
- Set account alerts: Many banks, financial institutions, and credit monitoring agencies offer alerts to notify consumers when changes occur with their accounts. These alerts often are email notices.
- Be wary: Be wary when using free WiFi. It’s generally not a good idea to access financial accounts or password-protected sites on shared networks (free WiFi is giving you access to a shared network) because it is possible for hackers to track your actions. Kiplinger’s cited an expert who suggested using your phones 3G or 4G mobile phone service to access the Internet may be a better choice than using free WiFi.Also be wary of just plugging your phone or device into any outlet or USB charging device as these can be other ways to access or steal from your device. This also means to be wary of emails that look out of place. Don’t download attachments or click links if you do not know the sender.
- Control your data: Facebook may ask you to complete your profile every time you visit, but you really shouldn’t. It’s smart to limit the personal information –birthdays, pet’s and best friend’s names, addresses, and other data –you share on social media websites. This information can be used to answer security questions and gain access to accounts.
- Read your bills: A lot of people pay their bills electronically and never take time to review the charges. No matter what type of payment option you employ, it’s critical to review every charge. Unexpected charges could be accidental, or they could be evidence that your data has been stolen. If you find a mistake, report it right away.
- Take action: Put the right protections around your business, life, and online accounts. Stop using weak passwords. Understand the risks you take when using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connected devices in public.
Being online and engaging with others is a necessity for many Americans. In fact, if 2020 has taught us anything it is the importance of having a solid online and virtual workplace. However, even our virtual video conference software can be a risk, as offerings like Zoom have been hacked repeatedly in 2020. As a result, it’s important to be aware of the risks involved when going online and taking appropriate precautions to protect your personal and financial information.
Securities offered through “LPL Financial”, Member FINRA/SIPC.
This material was prepared by Carson Coaching. Carson Coaching is not affiliated with the named broker/dealer or firm.
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