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New Years Security Resolutions

While any time is a good time to adopt new habits, the New Year seems to be the most popular time for resolutions. When most people are resolving to make changes to their lifestyle, health, and habits, a lot of people do not realize that they should consider making resolutions to their digital lifestyle as well. Here are some suggested resolutions to living a healthy and secure online life.

Software Updates- Install Early, Install Often

Software vulnerabilities are security holes discovered and exploited by hackers that allow them to access your computer. The attacks are carried out by code specifically written for a particular vulnerability, and are usually transmitted via malware. Your computer can become easily infected by viewing a compromised website or by downloading corrupted attachments.

In addition to patching security holes, software updates often add new features to the software, fix bugs and add other improvements. So when that pesky pop up appears, notifying you that there are software updates available, don’t procrastinate and click on “Update Now.”

Evaluate Privacy Filters on Social Media

Social networking sites can give away a lot of personal information that you may not be aware of, such as your location, full name, age and other details cybercriminals can use to aid them in identity theft. Make sure your privacy filters are set to disclose that information only to trusted individuals. In addition to setting up your security settings, check up on them over time, as developers will change or update their platforms, and sometimes those changes can alter your privacy settings.

Install and Update Security Software on a Regular Basis

If you’re not already using security software, you should be- this goes for Mac users as well. Security software has more features than just protecting your computer from viruses, and viruses only make up about 50% of the threats on the Internet landscape. You are still vulnerable to threats such as phishing attacks, spyware, unsafe websites, adware, and key loggers. A security software suite such as Norton Security will protect your computer from these threats and more. Be sure to update your security software on a regular basis, as new threats emerge constantly.

Schedule Regular Backups

Data loss can be devastating, and often what is lost is irreplaceable. Treasured photographs, important documents, media files, contacts and more can be wiped out. Data loss can happen in many ways- a hard drive crash, a malware infection such as ransomware, or a device can be lost or stolen. Protect your data by scheduling regular backups at least once a week, so if you were to suffer a loss, you’d have the ability to retrieve your data easily.

Secure Your Passwords and Change them Regularly

Passwords are the keys to everything you access online. The importance of secure passwords is crucial, as cybercriminals tend to target website hacks in order to gain access to them. Secure passwords should be at least eight characters long, a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. They should not contain any words, important dates or names, as these make passwords easier to hack. Additionally, it is not a good idea to use the same password across multiple sites- if a hacker gains access to one of these accounts it makes it easier for them to gain access to the other accounts they are associated with as well. If possible, also use Two-Factor authentication if it is available.

Password Protect Your Devices

Your computers and mobile devices contain an abundance of personal information on them. If this information were to fall into the wrong hands, the results could be disastrous. Protect your information in the event that a device gets lost or stolen by putting a password on it. The criminal may have your device, which is rather unfortunate, but they won’t have access to your life that is stored on that device.

Set Up Automatic Credit Monitoring and Financial Account Transactions

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is the top ranking consumer complaint. Americans lost a total of 1.6 billion dollars to fraud in 2013. Luckily, you are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act as long as you report the fraudulent activity in a timely manner.
Many companies offer credit report monitoring services for events such as new credit accounts opened in your name or whether your personal information is used to apply for a loan. This is an effective early warning system that will help you stay on top of being involved in identity theft. In addition to credit report monitoring, check and see if your bank or credit card company offers transaction alerts, which are an email or text message that will notify you of transactions that occur on your account. If a fraudulent charge is made, you will be alerted and you take action as needed. In addition to these safeguards, be sure to monitor your online accounts every 2-4 weeks.

Read Software Terms of Service and Privacy Policies

Yes, they’re terribly long and boring, and it’s so much easier to just click on that “Agree” button, however, many software programs and apps are collecting and accessing data about you and your usage habits on your devices. By reading these policies before installing these programs, you should get a clear picture of what that company intends to do with your data once collected. If there are any aspects of the policy that you do not agree with, or even worse, there is no information in the privacy policy at all, do not download that app. Instead, search for a similar app that has policies that you agree with. That way, your data stays safe and is not distributed to advertising companies or accessed by cyber criminals in the event of a data breach.

Monitor and Protect Your Online Identity

Have you ever Googled yourself? Essentially, it is a digital paper trail that leads to anything you have done online using your real name. Social media accounts, blogs, comments on news articles and more can be found in search results. Some of these accounts can contain personal data, display photos of you and reveal other sensitive information. If you find results you’re not happy with, you can tighten things up by adjusting security settings on social media accounts, delete comments or even delete old accounts that you stumble across that you don’t use anymore. Think of this as digital housekeeping.

Educate Yourself Against Phishing Attacks

According to the September 2014 Symantec Intelligence Report, the average number of phishing attacks are about 53 per day. The main purpose of phishing is to try to trick you into divulging sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, bank information and more. Phishing tactics can span across email, social media, instant messages and even text messages. They attempt to appear legitimate by mimicking messages that would come from a well-known bank, popular retailer or they can be from someone asking for money via a 419 scam. Learn how to properly identify phishing scams to be sure that you don’t take the bait.

This New Year you can party like it’s 1999 (and this time, there are no worries of the Y2K bug) and go into 2015 confident that you’re doing everything you can to be a better you, on and offline.