May 31, 2023

5 Tips for Personal Cybersecurity

With technology getting more advanced, cybercrime has unfortunately become a pressing issue in recent years for investors across the world. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, cybersecurity complaints totaled 847,376 in 2021, an all-time high, resulting in $6.9 billion worth of consumer losses. Massive corporations including Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook have all experienced multi-million-dollar data breaches in the last ten years. While acknowledging that having personal financial information stored online is very efficient, investors often wonder what steps they can take to protect their personal information and avoid being a victim of such a crime. Here are five steps investors can keep front of mind to ensure their information is secure.


  • Use Strong, Different Passwords and Keep Them Stored In A Secure Location


One of the easiest ways for hackers to gain access to an account is by guessing a commonly used password for your account. Avoid using common passwords (pet/child names, easily found dates of birth, or common numeric patterns like “1234”). Additionally, using a different password for all accounts ensures that if one password becomes compromised, other accounts can maintain protection. The easiest way to safely track all these complicated passwords would be to store them in an encrypted, secure application on your mobile phone. Applications like “Secure Notepad” or “Lock Notes” are encrypted, password protected notes that you can easily access and change if and when passwords change. Also, this will allow you to keep all passwords organized in one location– keeping less information stored online. Consider utilizing SMS two-factor authentication and identify theft protection (Lifelock, for example) to enhance security in addition to using a strong password.


  • Do Not Click On Suspicious Emails


Often, hackers will attempt to disguise an email from the IRS, your banking institution, or investment custodian in an attempt to download harmful software on your computer. Before opening an email from one of these sources, please be dutiful in checking for commonly used phishing tactics. Be aware of any email misspellings, suspicious links, and / or unusual activity that just does not seem right. Phishing emails will more than likely convey a sense of urgency in an attempt to get you to act quickly and not look into it further. If you’re staring at an email you consider suspicious, call the institution directly (on the company’s website– not the phone number in the email) and confirm whether or not it was sent before clicking any links.


  • Properly Discard of Financial Documents and Statements


Keeping financial information secure is not limited to online logins. If a criminal gets access to a paper account statement, they could be privy to sensitive information (account numbers, contact information, personal addresses, etc.) and use it to gain access to your account. Invest in a micro-cut shredder to properly destroy and dispose of old account statements to securely get rid of them.


  • Use Security Questions and Answers That Are Not Easily Found Online


Many times, a personal online security question is used as a last line of defense to keep your account protected. If you are establishing online security questions, consider using questions and answers that are unavailable to be found online. Questions like “What is your anniversary date?”, “What is your mother’s maiden name?”, and “Where did you go to high school?” can be researched and found online in certain cases. Always be sure to make these questions and answers individual to you and borderline impossible for anyone else to know. You can securely store these questions and answers in a similar fashion to storing personal passwords.


  • Be Especially Careful Using Public WiFi Networks


With remote work at an all-time high, many are conducting sensitive business from coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants across the country. Many of these locations have significantly lower security settings than private networks so that people can easily gain access to their wireless networks. With this in mind, please be aware that this means public wireless connections are more prone to threats and attacks due to these reduced settings. Be hyper-aware of your surroundings if using one of these networks. Consider using your mobile phone to establish a secure mobile hotspot to connect when not in your private network.


Large custodians, like Fidelity and Charles Schwab, have preventative measures in place to combat cybercrimes. Stringent verification measures, fraud detection, and restricted customer data access measures have been more and more prevalent as this issue moves to the forefront of public perception. Having information stored online makes everyone’s lives much easier, but be aware that comes with increased risk. Taking the above steps is a very good start to ensure your personal information is protected.


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Securities and advisory services offered through EWA LLC dba Equilibrium Wealth Advisors (a SEC Registered Investment Advisor).
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value.  However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.
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