4 Ways to Protect Your Information Online
- Pete Boergermann
Modern technology has made a tremendous impact on our lives and how we go about our daily routines. From how we connect with people to how we gather information, and even how we make purchases. As the reliance on this technology increases, so does the need to keep our information safe. New methods of obtaining your personal information are being used every day, which can be used to steal your money or your identity. Luckily, there are a few simple and effective ways to prevent cyber fraud from happening to you.
1. Secure your cell phone
Your cell phone has the potential to have a lot of personal information on it. This includes of your text message conversations, phone call history, internet browsing history, pictures, emails, and locally saved documents. If you make purchases with Google Pay or Apple Pay and you leave your phone unprotected, they could make purchases with your accounts.
The first step in keeping your mobile device safe is to set up a pin code or password. You will also want to set up an automated screen lock and set it to lock after 5 or 10 minutes so that if a person finds your phone, they won’t be able to get in and take your information. Newer phones have biometric capabilities, meaning you can use a fingerprint scanner to unlock your phone. These are very easy to set up and add a very high level of security. I also recommend running an Antivirus software on your mobile devices. Mobile devices have the same security risks a home computer has, and they are easier to lose and misplace. There are numerous free Anti-Virus programs and paid security programs available, giving your mobile device the same security you would get with your home computer.
2. Manage Your Passwords Effectively
Passwords are the only way to keep your personal information safe if your device is lost or stolen. Many, if not all, mobile devices have the capability to set up a password. If you not sure how to activate these safeguards, contact a professional and let them help you. I recommend using a password or passcode that is longer than six characters because they are much harder to crack. Before selecting your password, create one that will be easy for you to remember. Passwords are also important for the various websites you use. It is also a good idea to use a different password for all your social networking sites. That way if one social media service get compromised, they will not have access to your other accounts. When setting up your passwords, take some time to review your security settings and make sure you’re comfortable with how your account and information is secured. If you have a lot of passwords, look into getting a password manager to keep track of them all.
3. Keep Your Software Patched
All software needs to be kept up to date, whether it is your home computer, your tablet or your cell phone. Each one has an operating system that requires staying on top of security patches. Security patches are required to keep your personal information safe. All operating systems and most software have an easy way to apply patches. Some are automated, but others require manual intervention. You have probably received a pop-up message saying an update is available, and it’s a good idea to take the time to get the update installed as quickly as you can. The phone manufacturer pushes out updates because there is usually a security issue that needs to be fixed. If you hold out on applying the patch, someone may take advantage of that vulnerability and gain access to your personal information. Windows operating systems have software called Windows Update that will perform this function for you, and mobile devices have an application that will keep your phone up to date. Make sure these automations are enabled and check them occasionally to make sure they are working correctly. Also, remember to keep any applications you installed up to date. If you installed an application and find that you are no longer using it, uninstall it, you can always re-install if you need it.
4. Beware of Social Engineering
Social Engineering is when a person tricks another person into giving up personal information, such as a username and password. They start by gaining the person’s trust and then find ways to manipulate a person into giving up information they would not normally give away. Their goal is to gain access to private information so that they can impersonate other people and steal their money. They use many different methods, including email, instant messaging, over the phone, or in person and will often use tricks such as offering free downloads, announcing that you won a contest, or pretending that your computer is infected.
You should also be very careful when clicking on links in emails. When you receive an email that creates a sense of urgency or an email that sound too good to be true, the best practice is to delete it. These emails will often have a link to click on or an attachment to open, and they may appear to come from a legitimate company or maybe even a person you know. Remember, the bad guys are always looking for a way to steal your usernames and passwords, and the easiest method for them to get this information is to simply ask. Sending fake emails that appear to be form someone you know is very common because they will exploit the trust you have with that person. You should also be very careful when you receive an unknown link via a text message, take the extra time and look closely before trusting the sender.
The biggest threat to your information online is not fully understanding the risks and being unaware of the actions you should take to prevent fraud. By following these four steps, you will be taking a huge step in shielding your information online.
Video courtesy of The Wellsboro Home Page
Pete Boergermann joined C&N in 1998 and has served as VP Information Technology Manager/Information Security Officer since 2006. In his new role as the Director of Information Security, he is responsible for managing the information security program at C&N, while also championing IT security to make it a critical part of C&N’s business operations.
A United States Air Force Veteran, Pete graduated from the BAI Graduate School of Bank Operations through Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management in 2006 and completed the Pennsylvania Bankers Association’s (PBA) School of Banking in 2009. He earned his credentials as a Certified Information Executive from USC Upstate Campus’s Institute for CIO Excellence in 2016. He also puts his expertise to valuable use as a member of the PBA IT Technology Committee and Chair of the PBA Cyber Sub-committee.
In his spare time, Pete serves as a School Board Member of New Covent Academy and as an Elder at the Church of the New Covent and volunteers for Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally and the Annual Laurel Classic Mountain Bike Challenge. He lives in Wellsboro with his wife, Cassie, and has three daughters, Alyssa, Joy and Mikaela.