Five Ways to Protect Your Online Life

Everyday millions of usernames and passwords are stolen. Computer security is a topic that causes many people’s eyes to glaze over. It’s complicated, messy and requires us to jump through hoops that feel frustrating. I get it.

The problem is that nearly everything in our lives is shifting to online. There are many positives for conducting our business, health, financial, and personal needs online. For example: it’s super convenient to purchase an item without needing to get off the couch to get a credit card. But, if we aren’t careful with our passwords, we open ourselves up to the potential of our private information getting stolen. This can ultimately mean stolen identities or credit cards.

How can we protect ourselves online?

  1. Create a new password for each website.
    It’s natural to want to use the same password or variations of a password for ease of remembering. However, if the password is a variation of one used for important things, it isn’t hard for the hacker to figure out the other ones.
    Make use of a password generator to come up with a strong password. The more characters (letters, numbers, and symbols) you use, the stronger the password.
  2. Enable two-factor authentication (when available).
    This is a fancy way to ask the website (such as a bank) to call, text, or email with a verification code that is entered onto the website to verify your identity.

    **Note: If you enable this, keep the phone number or email up to date so you don’t get locked out of your account.
  3. Use a password manager.
    This is an app that stores your long, symbol and number ridden passwords in one spot. It works similar to having your browser (Edge, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Brave, Opera) remember your password. A password manager is more secure because the passwords are accessed by typing in a master password. It will auto-fill your password into the correct spot on the login screen. The best part, it will remove the scrap pieces of paper and sticky notes from your desk that contain passwords.

    I currently use a paid version of LastPass so that I can use it on my computers, iPad, and cell phone. Another one I’ve used is Password Safe, a free open source option. My anti-virus software recently came out with a password manager as well. If this feature is included in your anti-virus program, I recommend you check it out.
  4. Don’t allow websites to store your credit/debit card (if possible)
    I know this adds a layer of inconvenience, but it can save trouble in the future. I once had my online account information with a well-known retailer stolen. Somehow, despite the security of the store, my credit card was used to purchase something from a clothing store I had never heard of.

    If you need to have the credit/debit card saved with the store (i.e. Amazon or Apple), make sure you enable the two-factor authentication so you know if someone tries to get into your account.
  5. Close or delete accounts you don’t use (if you can)
    Some websites have a link that allows you to remove your account from their system. This is a handy feature that I use when given the chance. The best way to find out if you can do this is to do an internet search with “How to close [name of website] account.”

Your online identity safety starts with you. By taking the precautions listed above, you’ll make it harder for your accounts to get broken into. It’s worth the extra steps to save future heartache.

If you have questions or comments about protecting your online accounts, you can post them in the comments below.

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