In today’s hyperconnected society, we have unprecedented access to information. We are online for a significant portion of our waking hours, using the internet to communicate with friends and family, conduct business, and complete financial transactions. But just as these tools continue to make our lives more convenient, they’ve also introduced new ways for the criminally-inclined to mine the data we create, and use it against us.
Jonathan John B. Paz, data protection officer and enterprise information security officer of Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), shares these simple tips to protect your data and ward off online scams, especially during the Christmas season.
Look for the Lock
When accessing websites that require your information, ensure that you have a secure connection. Check for a lock icon beside the https:// on the address bar of your browser.
Change Your Password Regularly
It may seem like a hassle to update your password often, but many have fallen victim to cyber-attacks because they use the same, or even similar, passwords on different accounts, be it on social media or online banking sites. Consider using password protection software, such as One Password or LastPass, which store your passwords and help you create unique passwords that are harder for criminals to guess.
Do Your Research
Cyber criminals can collect data by sending fake online promotions. These online sale scams are usually spread via social media. They may even come from your friends who are just as excited by great deals. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Verify online promos first before you provide your information.
Conduct Transactions at Home
While it may be more convenient to use free WiFi to purchase items on the go, this can put you at risk of having your data and your hard-earned money stolen. Cyber criminals have different ways of masking WiFi networks (e.g., setting up a fake public WiFi) which allow them to monitor your online activities and obtain sensitive personal information such as your login credentials, credit card information, and the like.
Use Security Software
Install the latest anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall on your devices. Make sure that all these are updated and that software update patches are installed as soon as they are released. This is to protect yourself and your computer from most basic attacks.
Cyber criminals choose no time or place to attack. They rely on your complacency and your preference for convenience. The easiest and most effective way to make sure that no one can access your data is to log off once you’re done with your transactions. Make sure to lock or shut down your computer when you leave the office.
Shred documents and information that you no longer need
Rather than throw documents in the trash, shred or cut them up. Criminals can easily glean information from bank statements, medical results, insurance statements and credit applications.
Stick to the necessities
Unless needed, do not bring important documents with you during the day. When you go out, take only the IDs, debit and credit cards you need. This minimizes the possibility of misplacing your files or cards and leaving yourself open to attacks.
Reset your devices before getting rid of them
Delete personal files, empty digital trash bins, uninstall relevant software, delete browsing history. In other words, just wipe out every piece of personal information in your devices before throwing them out or giving them to somebody else for recycling.
Watch what you post
Posting too much information about yourself allows identity thieves to know about your life, use their knowledge to answer “challenge” questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information.
“When it comes to protecting your data, you shouldn’t take shortcuts,” Paz said. “Criminals expect us to always choose convenience over protection, especially during the Christmas rush. These simple tips remind us of the practical habits we need to develop.”