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Pro Tips for Securing Your Data and Privacy at Home
As we discussed in the first article of the series on Cyber Security at Home with Bruce Burroughs, Chief Technology Officer of AAA Mountain West Group (MWG), your home network could leave you vulnerable to cyber attacks. That’s something worth paying attention to when risks from compromised data continue to mount. According to the FTC, over 1.4 million Americans reported being victims of identity theft in 2021.
“Humans are hard-wired to react to physical threats such as a criminal peeking in a window”, Bruce says. “But, in the digital realm, where threats are unseen, individuals may not have that same instinct to protect themselves and are unknowingly left vulnerable. Fortunately, there are security measures anyone can put in place – many of them at no cost – to keep personal information private.”
We took a deeper dive into the technology to learn how to make it harder for your data to be stolen or used without your knowledge. We uncovered some good news! You don’t have to be a tech genius or invest a lot of money to get started. With Bruce’s help we compiled a list of some of the easiest, most affordable defenses:
Secure Your Router
Set a long (approximately 15 characters) password for both your admin access to the router and your Wi-Fi network. Do not reuse passwords.
Pro Tip: Use a router that has built-in security with automatic firmware updates like Amazon Eero (with the Secure+ subscription for extra security) or Linksys.
Install endpoint security on PCs and Macs to protect against viruses, spyware, malware and other cyber threats. When choosing Internet of Things (IoT) devices, it’s important to choose well-known brands (such as Apple and Amazon) that have resources dedicated to security and keep firmware up to date.
Pro Tip: Sophos Home is worth checking out for device protection. It’s one of the few products that offer consumers next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) similar to what large companies use to protect their systems.
Pro Tip: On your smartphone, never download apps from unofficial sources; always use Apple’s App Store or Android’s Google Play. Poisoned Apps are usually the only way criminals can compromise your smartphone.
Secure Your Identity
Use multi-factor authentication on all sensitive accounts and leverage the free tools recommended by government entities to help you lock down sensitive information. Keep an eye on your accounts and credit reports for any activity you do not recognize.
Pro Tip: Sign up for a free IP PIN from the IRS to protect against criminals filing a fraudulent tax return using your SSN. You should also freeze your credit with all three credit bureaus to prevent someone from opening new accounts in your name.
Pro Tip: Use an identity monitoring service that will alert you to any unusual activity involving your personal information in credit applications, public records, and on the dark web. AAA Members have access to identity monitoring at no additional cost as part of their Membership with AAA Identity Champion.
Secure Your Privacy
Minimize surveillance of your digital activity to prevent being profiled based on information collected without your knowledge.
Pro Tip: To keep your online activity private, use DuckDuckGo for additional protection against trackers with its Privacy Essentials extension. Use the uBlock Origin browser extension that prevents tracking and offers malware protection against poisoned ads.
While there’s no single sure-fire way to keep your personal information from falling into the wrong hands, it’s comforting to know there are safeguards you can put in place for extra protection and peace of mind. There are also services available to help you reclaim your identity if the worst case happens and you become a victim of identity fraud – as long as you’ve enrolled in the coverage before the fraud occurs.