We live in an increasingly technologically advanced modern age. While there are numerous benefits to all these advances in technology, as with anything else, there are also drawbacks. It seems like nearly every week there is news of an online data breach. In 2022 alone, organizational data compromises affected over 392 million individual victims globally. With the increasing prevalence of these cyberattacks, the job of safeguarding your wealth is becoming more important than ever.
So, what steps can you take to protect yourself and your financial assets? In this post, we have outlined some simple, yet effective and practical tips and best practices for protecting yourself online. By following the steps below, you can reduce your risk and help keep your personal and financial information safe.
A password manager helps securely store and organize all your passwords, allowing you to create strong and unique passwords for each of your accounts. This reduces the risk of having your accounts compromised due to weak or reused passwords, which is one of the biggest risks to keeping your information safe. Additionally, a password manager helps streamline the login process and eliminate the need to remember multiple passwords. Sites like Bitwarden, Keeper, and 1Password are three options to consider.
Using a VPN enhances online privacy by encrypting your internet traffic and masking your IP address. This helps protect sensitive personal and financial information, such as login credentials and online banking transactions, from being intercepted by cybercriminals. A VPN should be used all the time on your iPhone, iPad, laptop, and other devices. Some good options for a VPN service include ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
Encrypting storage devices, such as laptops and external hard drives, helps protect the confidentiality and integrity of stored data. If the device is lost or stolen, encrypted data will be unreadable without the proper decryption key, reducing the risk of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. Apple computers have FireVault installed on them, which encrypts the information on the Mac. To enable FireVault, follow these easy steps. Some Windows versions—Windows 10 or 11 Pro, Enterprise, or Education—have Bitlocker, Microsoft’s encryption solution. For those with other Windows versions, you may still be able to encrypt your computer if you meet certain hardware requirements.
Using a firewall helps increase overall network security and reduce the risk of data breaches and cyber threats. Essentially, they help prevent unauthorized applications, programs, and services from accepting incoming connections. Windows versions 10 and later now come with Microsoft Defender Firewall, and since 2007 Mac computers also come with a firewall you can enable.
Anti-malware programs help protect against a range of threats, including viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, and other forms of malware that can cause harm to your computer or steal sensitive information. Regular use of anti-malware programs helps prevent system slowdowns, crashes, and other issues caused by malware infections, providing a critical layer of security for any computer or device. While Microsoft Defender provides antivirus support on Windows computers, you may look into additional software for PCs depending on your browsing practices, or for Macs, which don’t come with antivirus software. Some options for anti-malware protection include Malwarebytes and Bitdefender.
Update Software and Hardware
Regularly updating software programs ensures that security vulnerabilities and bugs are fixed, protecting the software and any sensitive data it may handle. To increase your computer’s performance and lower the risk of attacks, keep your operating systems, software, and anti-malware programs updated—ideally automatically. This is one of the best and easiest ways to improve your cybersecurity! Using modern hardware can also help provide the best security advancements against cyber threats. Hardware includes routers, Wi-Fi, computers, phones, laptops, etc.
Cyber hygiene refers to basic practices and habits to maintain the security and privacy of personal and sensitive information when using technology. To protect yourself, be more cautious about clicking on links that come to your email, which can be “phishing” attempts to get you to click on a fake link so the hacker can obtain your username and password. Another step you can implement is using multi-factor authentication or two-factor authentication. This refers to the process of using an additional method to verify yourself when signing into apps and programs online. It provides an added layer of protection compared to only using a password.
Public Wi-Fi and Cell Signals
Using public Wi-Fi networks can be risky because they often lack encryption and proper security measures, leaving sensitive information vulnerable to interception and theft by cybercriminals. Cell signals can also be spoofed by creating a fake cell tower, allowing an attacker to intercept voice and data communications, steal sensitive information, and even manipulate GPS data. To lower these risks, if you need to use public Wi-Fi, be sure to use a VPN.
Privacy Settings & Information You Share
One of the biggest ways to help your cybersecurity picture is by protecting the information you share. Many hacks rely on people making careless mistakes and revealing usernames, passwords, or other access to personal information. A significant way to increase your privacy protections is by setting your social media to only share information with people you know. When I worked in cybersecurity, I researched how much information I could find on business executives, and you’d be surprised at how much I could find on social media! Be careful about what information you share online, and with whom.
Defend Your Wealth
While this information may seem overwhelming and even a little unsettling, the good news is there are proven, simple steps you can take to reduce your risk online. The steps mentioned in this article are not difficult; they simply require a little time and effort to implement. By following these best practices, you can breathe a little easier when working online.
Regardless of how tech-savvy you may or may not be, it’s imperative to learn how to safeguard your personal information and financial accounts if you want to protect yourself from cyberattacks. If you would like someone to walk you through this process, we’d love to help. At Wilkinson Wealth Management, we create financial and investment strategies tailored to your goals, so you can plan for today’s needs and tomorrow’s goals. Reach out to us at 434-202-2521 or use our Contact Us page to schedule an appointment.
Kirsten Ashbaugh is a financial advisor and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional at Wilkinson Wealth Management, LLC. Her experience includes extensive financial planning and portfolio management, as well as experience in addressing the specific challenges of women and small business owners. She is available to help clients with managing assets, determining insurance needs, and comprehensive financial planning, including planning for major purchases, education, and retirement.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Kirsten relocated to Charlottesville in 2020 and loves exploring the local culture and food (noting a particular fondness for the local bakeries). Outside of work, she and her husband enjoy hiking and traveling, with a goal of visiting at least one foreign country every year.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.