Are your financial accounts online secure?
Are your financial accounts online secure?
Earlier this month, Vanessa and I addressed a frustrating cyber threat. One of our accounts was hacked, and the individual was able to steal some financial resources. We are working with the right parties to recoup the loss, but the whole process is extremely frustrating and time-consuming.
If you have not yet experienced this type of cyber crime, be grateful. But more than that, you should take precautions to minimize your risk exposure so this does not happen to you.
The growing threat
The volume, scope and cost of cybercrime continue to rise rapidly in our increasingly complex and highly connected financial world. Cyber crime has risen 20 percent since 2014 and is the fastest growing economic crime, according to the latest biennial survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). Juniper’s research recently predicted that the rapid digitization of consumer lives and company records will increase the cost of data breaches to $ 2.1 trillion by 2019, increasing nearly four times the estimated cost of breaches In 2015.
I cite these studies to make a point – this is a growing threat around the world. If you use the Internet to manage any of your financial accounts, you will be exposed to this threat.
How does it work?
There are numerous different hacking methods that can be used to steal your personal information. Some of the most common types include phishing email scams, where the offender sends a targeted email that imitates a legitimate organization or a personal contact. If they are opened or downloaded, email / attachments often infect your computer with malware to track or steal your personal login information.
Other hacks can easily track keystrokes and login information when you log in using an unsecured Internet connection. This is common in restaurants, cafes, airports, shopping centers, and the numerous other places that offer free and unrestricted Wi-Fi access. Many consumers believe that these connections are secure, but are widely open and easily exploitable.
There are a growing number of other more sophisticated hacking techniques that are highly targeted. With these, hackers often target specific, high net worth individuals. If they are able to access a single account or credit card, they are able to exploit and steal assets or other economic information. They sometimes steal account information through brute-force attacks on encrypted accounts or logins, but do not use it immediately. They use the first account as a gateway to break more accounts, and then execute a planned attack.
How to protect yourself
The bad news is that the attacks continue to evolve and become more sophisticated. The good news is that with some simple precautions, you can greatly improve your cyber security defense and protect yourself against many of the more common types of cyber-theft.
1) Install a password manager
A password manager is a must in 2016. Most people have numerous accounts online, spread over multiple devices, each of which requires a password. Having multiple accounts is not a problem, but recycling the same password over and over again is a major problem as it makes your accounts much easier to hack. Instead of using a simple password or a combination of simple passwords, you need to use unique combinations for each online account. In addition, each password must be long, difficult to cut combinations of letters, numbers and special characters.
What I’m describing is a password manager. Password Managers generate and store all your passwords in a secure environment. Most can even automatically fill in login information for each of their stored accounts and synchronize their passwords on all their devices (computer, mobile, tablet, etc.). Password Managers allow you to have unique, long, and difficult to break passwords for each of your online accounts. These passwords are automatically saved to trusted and verified devices, which means that you no longer have to memorize each unique passcode.
In addition, the best password managers do much more than that. LastPass allows users to automatically log in to any specified online account. With one click, LastPass will visit the appropriate url, enter your saved username and password, and enter your account. This saves a lot of time. You can also safely save any form information, such as names, addresses, credit card information, etc. All of this is securely encrypted on your local machine, untouchable by outsiders (and even LastPass employees).
When we were hacked, a source of trust immediately pointed me at LastPass. The free version is excellent, and the premium version allows you to sync your passwords through unlimited devices for only $ 12 / year. Lastpass is continuously ranked as one of the top three password managers, and is the most economical premium password manager on the market. I have been extremely happy with the service so far, and I did extensive research on the options available before deciding on LastPass. As an additional bonus, if you register using our reference code, we both receive a free month of the premium version (which I already bought in advance).
2) Enable two-factor authentication
Most password administrators, including LastPass, allow you to add an additional layer of security when accessing your accounts, called two-factor authentication. This requires you to enter a unique security code, generated randomly and sent to your phone or other specified device, in addition to your standard login. While not entirely foolproof, two-factor authentication makes password vulnerability much more difficult for hackers.
3) Avoid unsecured WiFi networks
Your home Wi-Fi network comes with built-in security in the router, but it is not foolproof. If your network provider provides you with a router ID and password, you must change the default settings. Cybercriminals are aware of the defects of the major network providers, making these devices extremely vulnerable.
Never access anything important with open WiFi access points (not guaranteed). This is one of the easiest ways to get hacked. If you are traveling and need access to something important, try using the secure Internet connection on your phone. Most modern smartphones allow anchoring, and basic navigation uses little data.
4) Be careful with emails
Phishing scams are becoming more common and can be difficult to detect. Hackers are learning how to make these emails look official and engaging. Be careful when opening any of these emails.
You should also avoid sending important account or login information through standard email accounts. Email is not always completely encrypted.
No one wants to take time to think about all the bad things that can happen in our digital world, but you must be aware of the growing threat and take preventative measures to protect yourself. Making some changes in your user habits will significantly improve your online security. If nothing else, take the following precautions:
Avoid using personal information (such as important names, dates, or phrases) in your passwords. Hackers can easily find a lot of public information about you, which facilitates the creation of passwords.
Instead of using a common password for your accounts, consider using LastPass or another dedicated password manager. These programs allow you to use unique and extremely strong passwords for each personal login, which makes hacking much more difficult.
Avoid using public WiFi as much as possible – and never log on to secure accounts while connected to an open network.
Do you have any other important safety advice for our community? Share with a comment below.