Spring is here, and with it, spring cleaning! We wanted to take this time to remind you that your annual spring cleaning should always include a cybersecurity sweep. How secure are your everyday online habits? Is your personal and financial information protected from hackers?
According to the UN, digital theft impacts up to 17% of the global population (mostly due to security breaches at large companies), and McAfee estimates that the annual cost of cybercrime is $500 billion per year. The exact numbers are difficult to pin down because cybercrime evolves and changes constantly, which means it is critically important to make sure your cybersecurity habits are up to date.
Last year, we shared Fidelity’s Investor Protection Checklist with you, and this year we hope you will look through their updated interactive website that goes into greater detail on how to protect your financial and personal information.
The online Fidelity Account Security website has 6 major categories you should be thinking about when it comes to cybersecurity:
1. Boost Your Login Protection
For financial accounts, add an extra layer of security with multi-factor identification, or multiple passwords, codes and security questions. You can find information about free Symantec Validation and ID Protection by clicking here.
If you have trouble remembering all of your passwords for various services you use, consider using a password manager. We do not recommend any one brand in particular, but we do recommend selecting a product with multi-factor authentication for the most security.
2. Look Out for Suspicious Emails
Particularly around tax time, scammers take any opportunity to trick you into handing over sensitive information by posing as the IRS, FBI, or companies that you normally receive emails from. If you ever receive an email that asks for personal information, do not click any links within the email. Always contact the organization directly and ask if the email is legitimate.
A few other red flags include poor spelling, too-good-to-be-true offers, odd threats, and design elements that look slightly “off” compared to those of the organization the scammer is trying to impersonate.
3. Create a Strong Password
Secure passwords have a minimum of 12-14 characters and a variety of numbers, symbols, capital letters, and lower-case letters. Avoid dictionary words and easily-guessable substitutions like using a zero for the letter O.
A trick to create a secure password you’ll actually remember is to use the initials of a favorite phrase, quote, or lyric. If you are a visual person, you may remember a password that makes a certain shape on the keyboard more easily.
And make sure you’re not using a password on the 2015 Worst Passwords of the Year list (hint: if any of your passwords are “password” or “123456”, you’re in trouble!).
4. Browse With Vigilance
Always make sure your browsers are up to date, and do not enter any information into a non-secure site. You will know a site has a security certificate when the URL includes “https” as opposed to “http” and there is a “lock” symbol in the URL bar. See below for an example.
This is especially crucial for any site where you would enter private information, like online shopping.
5. Monitor Your Accounts
Most large banks now automatically text you if they suspect a fraudulent transaction, but smaller banks and credit unions may not have this technology yet. It is always worthwhile to review your monthly statement to double-check that no suspicious transactions occurred.
6. Take Precautions at Home
Always enable passwords to unlock all of your devices from your cell phone to your home computer, and make sure your WiFi network is secure.
These are just a few examples of ways to protect yourself in the 6 categories of cybersecurity, and we hope that these ideas will prompt you to increase your cybersecurity on multiple levels. Please see this webpage for even more detailed information.
At Halpern Financial we go beyond the industry standards to protect our clients’ information. If you suspect your data has been breached, please contact our office manager Jennifer Wood as soon as possible so that we can take additional steps necessary to protect your information.
Photo used under public domain.
IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION
Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Halpern Financial, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this blog will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this blog serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Halpern Financial, Inc.. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. Halpern Financial, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the blog content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Halpern Financial, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon request.