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Keeping Personal Information Safe Online

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As technology advances so do ways to use it against you. There's no lack of news stories about hackers gaining access to millions of people's personal data when they take over a major store, company, or government database. This isn't the only way criminals can get your information, though. In fact, usually, it's through a much smaller scam like email phishing, links that install viruses or a fake website that steals your credit card information. While perusing the internet, it's imperative to know a few safety tips so you don't risk someone stealing your identity or your credit card.


Strong Passwords

There are plenty of easy ways you can beef up your personal cybersecurity. You might be wondering, "What is cybersecurity anyway?" Basically, it's all the tactics you employ to keep your personal information safe. One trick you can use it create strong passwords for every website you have. It's recommended not to reuse passwords and to reset them frequently. Most websites even have specific required criteria to help your password be as secure as possible.

When you start creating tons of passwords, it can be difficult to remember them all. The days of the Rolodex and only using your computer at your desk are gone, so how are you supposed to remember all these randomized passwords? This is where you can use your technology for good. There are tons of apps available for iPhone and Android that can generate and store your passwords for you. So all you have to do is remember your password to the app, and it will keep track of everything else. 


Secure Sites

Before you use or input any information into a website, you should make sure it's secure. One easy way to identify a trustworthy site is to look for the little padlock icon in your URL browser bar. This means it's a secured site. Safe websites will also start with https:// and usually end in a .com, .net, .org, or .gov.

If you're suspicious of the site, but you can't see any of these obvious giveaways, then you could check to see if the website has its own privacy policy. Most sites alert users of this through a pop-up as soon as you enter the site. If it doesn't have a privacy policy, then look for contact information. All legitimate companies will include some way for you to contact them on their website, so if there's no form, email or phone number, you're probably on an unsecured site.


Device Passcodes

One of the easiest ways for someone to steal your information is through your devices. Be it your smartphone, tabet or computer, odds are you have lots of personal information stored on your favorite pieces of tech. Things like your banking app, credit card information and even medical information could be accessible to someone who can gain access to your devices.

To prevent this possibility in the event you lose a device or it's stolen, be sure to put a passcode on everything. For phones and tablets, this might be a number series and your laptop could even include a fingerprint scan. Having a passcode makes it much more difficult for someone to access your information and more likely they'll simply ditch your device without causing any harm. 


Free WiFi

Free internet access can be a huge perk of working in a coffee shop or public library, but it's also a potential security risk. Because these networks are easy to access and free to the public, they're often also easy to hack into. They tend not to be closely monitored, so be wary when you're using free WiFi.

If you're using the internet on a public connection, it's best not to enter any personal information onto any website. Even logging into existing accounts can put you at risk. If you need to work with sensitive information or take care of personal business in a public space, it's advised you use a personal hotspot.


Social Security Number

Plenty of legitimate businesses online will ask for your social security number as a means of verification. Although they typically use safe, legal means of processing your SSN and connecting it to other data, there's always the risk someone could take that information from their online form. For this reason, it's best never to provide your SSN online. Although companies request it, the only entity you're legally required to provide your number to is the federal government, so opt for other verification options.


Staying safe on the internet might seem difficult because of all the ways people can steal your information, but if you're smart, you'll be safe. Remember to set strong passwords, only use secure sites, put passcodes on your devices, be wary of free WiFi, and don't provide your social security number to any business online.


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