As 2021 draws to a close, now is the perfect time to do three things to help protect yourself and your family in this digital age. I did all three on Monday.
1) Change your passwords. There were six major data breaches this year, and hundreds of smaller ones. Millions of people had their personal information, including passwords and pin numbers, exposed. This stolen personal information is now for sale on the Internet (yes, there are websites that actually sell stolen data to the bad guys). One of the best ways to protect yourself is to change all your passwords on a regular basis. It is a hassle, but having a bad guy get access to your bank account, for example, will be much more of a hassle.
I changed all my passwords on Monday - email accounts, social media accounts, bank accounts, car insurance, cell phone provider, PayPal, Amazon, Google, and so forth. It was a long list and took some time, but my safety and privacy is worth it.
Don't forget to change the password for your home Wi-Fi.
2) Add two-factor authentication (also called two-step authentication) to your accounts if available. Yep, it seems like a hassle to go through that extra step every time you log on to an account, but it is no where near as big a hassle as a bad guy getting into your account.
There are several ways websites can handle two-factor authentication. You can set it up at the same time you change your password, and probably from the same page. Each website will walk you through the set-up process for their site. It really isn't hard.
I was reluctant to use two-factor authentication because of the perceived hassle, but on Monday I finally added it to my bank accounts, PayPal account, and other accounts which store my financial information, including card numbers. So far it hasn't been as big a hassle as I imagined. Better safe than sorry.
3) Use the lock screen for your phone and other mobile devices. Lock screens use various methods - pin numbers, passwords, fingerprint or facial recognition - to make sure that you are the only one with access to your device. No one thinks they will ever misplace, lose, or have their phone stolen, but it happens all the time. Think about how much personal data is stored on your phone, and how many apps on it have access to your accounts. All this information is freely available to any bad guy that gets ahold of your device if you don't use a lock screen.
Once again, I was reluctant to use my lock screen because of the perceived hassle. On Monday, I finally set up my lock screen. So far, not a hassle at all. Don't forgot your pin number or password. Write it down on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere like a desk drawer (just don't carry it with you) in case you ever forget it.
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