Some weeks ago, it was announced that hundreds of thousands of Canadians had their personal online information put at risk die to a data breach from Equifax Canada. Online security is of paramount importance in this digital age, especially for older online users whom hackers tend to target most often. Part of the reason older individuals are targeted by so many online thieves is that they are less familiar with online security and its risks. If you want to avoid being a victim, you need to educate yourself on the risks and ways to protect your information. Here are a few simple steps to strengthening your online security and giving yourself a piece of mind.
Choose strong passwords.
While saying that older online users are not savvy enough to secure their personal information is not true, there are many indicators that boomer aged users may not be taking appropriate measures in protecting themselves online. The password is a good example of this. Your password is meant to be your strongest defense against hackers, and yet, so many people see it as an inconvenience and put little effort into creating a strong password. You need to put some real thought into securing your online information. Don’t select a password based on personal things like birthdays or pet names. These can be too easily guessed. Choose a totally random password and memorize it. While some may be content with one strong password for all their accounts, they are setting themselves up for a great deal of risk going forward. If your password falls into the wrong hands, all your personal information is exposed. Choose strong passwords for each individual account. It meant be difficult to keep them straight, but password management tools can help you with this.
There’s a time and place for personal information.
The internet is so accessible now that you can log on in just about any location. But that convenience can cost you if you’re not careful. You need to be wary of what you do online when on public wi-fi. Public wi-fi is the kind of internet access at coffee shops and other businesses, where any patron is free to log on to their network. It’s a nice service to have but the problem is that these networks are not encrypted like your wi-fi at home and that means your information is more at risk. Online thieves can monitor your online activity on these unsecure networks. That doesn’t mean you can’t use public wi-fi at all. It’s perfectly fine for general internet use, but when it comes to accessing personal information, like online banking and personal emails, you could be unnecessarily exposing yourself. Keep all sensitive online business to a secure network where you can be sure it’s only you eyes that will be allowed to view.
Check your bank statements routinely.
When you are able to safely and securely go to your online banking, this is where you want to be especially vigilant. It only makes sense that your online financial information is one of the biggest targets for hackers, which means you need to be extra sensitive about ensuring everything is secure. Part of this means keeping an eye on your financial activity. These online thieves can be very sneaky, sometimes you won’t know they are stealing from you until they’ve done some real damage. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on your regular bank statement. Watch for any irregularities or purchases you don’t remember. Even if it’s not big, you should be on the lookout for any unusual activity so thank if someone is stealing from your account, you’ll be able to spot it quickly and hopefully deal with it before too much damage is done.
Watch for unsecure sites.
In the era of online shopping, you might not think twice about buying something off a random website, but not all of these sites are as safe as others. Before entering your credit card into any site, make sure it is secure. Usually, there will be a small icon to the right of the address in the search bar. For secure sites, the icon will be a key. If the icon is the key with a red X over it, that indicates that the site is not secure and it is not safe to give any personal information.
Beware of emails.
One of the most common tactics of online thieves is email phishing, and unfortunately it is also one of the most effective when it comes to targeting older online users. Email phishing is when hackers send out emails with some offer or emergency situation and try to lure victims into giving up personal information. These can be very dangerous and it’s important to know how to spot them. First and most importantly, never give out personal information through email. No matter how convincing the email might sound and how much you think you trust the sender, no legitimate institution would ask you to email them personal information, as it is far too unsecure. If the email provides a link to a website where you can give your personal information, look to see if the link matches with the actual address. Often times scammers will provide something that looks like a legitimate address in the email to lure you in. Also, look for poor spelling and grammar, because evidently, these scammers are too good at proofreading. Overall, be suspicious of any unsolicited or unprovoked emails of these type and be smart online.