By Tristan Smith, First State Bank
We live in a crazy ultra-connected world. We shop, bank, research, watch videos, play games, email, chat, listen to music and find a soul mate online. All fun things to do, so let’s look at some sensible logic to protect yourself and your information.
It’s August 1999 – A young man was overheard in a seedy bar (now closed) on Anchor Bay saying: “The Internet is my only friend”. Yes, admittedly, that was me. Fast forward to present day, and I have to wonder if our “friendship” has stood the test of time? What kind of friend steals your personal info, shares infectious diseases, transfers money without your permission, and destroys your once pristine reputation?
Don’t get me wrong, the good definitely outweighs the bad. The Internet and technology, just like a real friend, can be an asset or a liability. Here are some obvious and obscure ways to be safe out there with your BFF:
1. Keep up-to-date. Don’t hit “remind me later” for all those pesky reminders – update your laptop, desktop and mobile devices now. This includes your anti-virus software, anti-spyware, firewalls, and patches for your operating system, as well as any other programs that you use daily.
2. Be password smart. It’s tempting to use the same password in multiple places but don’t. Use complex passwords – they are harder to crack. Try using the first letter of each word in a phrase. For example, “The cow jumped over the moon in 2012 & Jack and Jill went up the hill” translates into the following password: Tcjotmi2&JaJwuth. Guess what? You just created a virtually unhackable password that’s easy to remember.
3. Be challenge question silly. Here, I am giving you permission to lie. To reset a Password, you are often given a set of challenge questions – that are supposed to be personal but others may be able to correctly answer – so be creative. Use the same unrelated answer for all questions like “purple”. If you aren’t allowed to use the same answer for multiple questions, then add the last word in the question. For example, your response to the question, “What is your father’s middle name?” would be “name purple”. Those of you born in a city that is hard to spell like Menominee, can thank me later.
4. Be Wi-Fi cautious. I can’t say it enough: DO NOT shop or bank online while at a coffee shop or other businesses that offer free, and potentially unsecure, Wi-Fi access. But you’re not safe at home either. Default settings on your wireless router are not enough to protect you. Default passwords for the most popular routers are just a Google search away. If you haven’t changed your password, anyone can freeload on your Wi-Fi and possibly gain access to your information. When you do set a unique password, make sure it is not an obvious one – like your address or wife’s name. Next you need to set your router’s encryption at the highest security level. If you are not tech savvy, find someone you trust who is – even if you have to pay for it. This is the most important security measure that you can take.
5. Wipe or destroy hard drives before disposal. Before you sell your used computer on Craigslist or donate it to your favorite non-profit group – you need to remove or wipe the hard drive. Hammers and bullets, although fun, might not destroy a hard drive. Pony up and pay to have it shredded! You can also wipe a hard drive instead of removing it. To do this, Google “wipe hard drive” and you will find free programs to forensically erase the disk.
6. Don’t hand over the keys to the kingdom. Many of us have wandered alone in the online neighborhood, and some of us have created social networks with people whom we would never invite into our homes! Yet when you post pictures to Facebook that you just took while on vacation– you just announced “rob me, rob me – I am out-of-town”. A quick online search will reveal your home address to make the robbery that much easier. Speaking of pictures, if you took a picture of that new Rolex with your smartphone; you may have unknowingly just given the exact location where it can be found and extended another robbery invitation. If you share your phone pictures regularly, consider disabling location services for your camera.
7. Protect yourself from electronic pickpockets. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and EMV (Europay/ MasterCard/ Visa) is the technology that lets you simply wave your credit card, passport or license in front of a nearby scanner instead of having to slide the magnetic strip through it. In the next two years, credit card issuers will begin to replace magnetic strip with these new chips. Some embedded chips can be read by handheld scanning devices— without cardholders knowing. The embedded chip in a credit card emits the account number, expiration date and other information.
Now for the good news! Electronic pickpocketing is easily preventable by using a special RFID blocking sleeve – a protective carrier in which your card slides into. To determine if you have any cards with chips, check for the symbols shown above. And your reward for reading this article to the end – is a free RFID blocking sleeve. Simply stop by any First State Bank location for yours.