In this internet-driven world, it’s vital to keep yourself protected online. With major websites announcing password leaks almost every day, online privacy should be at the top of your mind. Take five minutes to run through these basic strategies for keeping your computer and online identity safe.
1. Change your passwords.
The best things you can do to protect yourself are to choose strong passwords for all of the online services that you use and never use the same password on more than one website. That way, if hackers manage to figure out your Facebook password, they won’t automatically know your internet banking password.
Remembering strong, unique passwords for every website you go to simply isn’t possible, and writing passwords on sticky notes near your computer should always be avoided. This is where free digital password vaults like KeePass come in. KeePass safely stores all of your passwords in an encrypted file for easy access. Just be sure to pick a very long and very strong password to unlock the file!
2. Check your credit report.
Keeping track of your credit report can also help increase your online privacy. You can check your credit history once a year for free by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. While these reports aren’t always the easiest to read, it’s important to go over each one with a fine-tooth comb to look for discrepancies. The Federal Trade Commission has a nice list of common questions and answers, including how to resolve a discrepancy.
If this seems like a daunting task, you can always turn to credit monitoring services such as LifeLock. These companies specialize in tracking your credit reports, monitoring for fraudulent charges, and even helping protect you from identity theft.
3. Update your antivirus protection.
Another easy way to protect yourself is to keep your antivirus software up to date. If you use one of the larger antivirus companies such as Symantec or McAfee, make sure your subscription is current and that you are downloading updates on a daily basis. If you’d rather go with a more cost-effective route, there are several good free antivirus programs out there. Some of the top ones include Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG, and Avast.
4. Keep track of your bank account.
Balancing your checkbook and tracking your bank account balance down to the last cent can be boring, but it’s important. Keeping track of each transaction will help you notice when a fraudulent charge shows up and brings you the added bonus of helping you stick to your budget and see where your money is going. We recommend using the financial tracking program Mint to make this easier.