Updating your cybersecurity

Our lives are inundated with technology, creating multiple avenues for hackers and scammers to gather personal data and misuse it without your knowledge. Millions of people are blissfully unaware or sadly misinformed about where their personal information is stored and how it is used, making them vulnerable to cybercriminals. Data privacy goes beyond updating your passwords after a data breach. This Data Privacy Day, think about ways you can keep your information to yourself. Here are a few tips on how to keep your information secure:

Securing your “smart” speakers

Smart devices are always standing by waiting for you to activate them and taking note of what you ask them. This has raised concerns about whether these devices are listening to us when we haven’t asked them to and, if they’re collecting information, where that data is going. With reports of hackers finding ways to take over your device to listen in or, creepily, talk to you, the security of your device is essential. And while tackling some of these concerns is out of your control, there are a few steps you can take to protect your privacy.

First, it’s important to remember the account holder associated with the device can see any requests that have been made. Ensure the “delete by voice” option is selected in the account settings, then tell Alexa or your Google Assistant “delete what I just said” or “delete my last conversation.” While in the account settings, you can also delete past recordings. Also, using the “voice match” function for Google Assistant can prevent your search results from being available to anyone but you. When it comes to ordering things off of the device, if you have one-click payments on, you can set up a spoken pin to stop others from racking up charges on your account.

Creating sneaky security questions

Many of the security questions used by websites are easily acquired by hackers. A simple Google search, unfortunately, can reveal a treasure trove of personal information. Even information you posted on social media can lead to answers for common security questions relating to career or family details. So, why not get creative with your security question answers? Coming up with an answer only you would know, like using your mother’s nickname instead of her middle name or using your school’s mascot instead of its full title, will help keep your accounts secure. If you choose to do so, it would be important to remember that the answer you provided isn’t as straight forward as they asked. However, with the help of a password manager app, remembering the answer to your new security question will be a cinch.

Set your smartphone to self-destruct

Your smartphone has a plethora of personal data and is easy to steal or misplace. While certain apps may be safe from someone with access to your phone, things like your email, contacts or social media are left vulnerable. This accessible information can be used against you by cybercriminals to do everything from simply changing your passwords on you to committing fraud in your name. Take that power away from potential criminals by ensuring your phone has a long password. Even if a thief tries to guess your pin, smartphones can be set up to perform. Factory reset after multiple unsuccessful unlock attempts. Just go into your phone’s security settings to ensure your phone is properly configured to do so.

Keeping safe on the go

Connectivity issues and battery life are always a concern when traveling. However, be wary of “juice jacking” by cybercriminals. Juice jacking is a type of cyberattack where USB charging ports are altered and used to infect your device with malware. The best way to avoid this is to carry a USB charger that plugs directly into a power socket or investing in a USB charging cable that is power-only. As for using public WIFI, using a virtual private network (VPN) app will reduce the risk. VPN apps create encrypted “tunnels” between your device and a remote server, creating a barrier between your device and nosy hackers.

Keeping your data out of the wrong hands isn’t always in your control, but you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done what you can to keep your private information secure. For more tips and to stay up to date on the latest news, head to bbb.org.

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