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In recent months, consumers have been more dependent than ever on online retail and financial services—leaving their personal information more vulnerable than ever to hackers and identity thieves. Even with the security measures put in place by responsible online retailers and services, it’s still wise for consumers to take additional steps to protect their personal information.
Being aware of best practices in online security can help you avoid being a victim—and the best resources for that knowledge are tech industry leaders. Below, 11 experts from Forbes Technology Council share ways you, as a consumer, can help keep your personal information out of the hands of bad actors.
1. Make it difficult to collect your data.
We consumers don’t have to become invisible—we just have to make it a little harder to collect our behavioral profiles. Use different browsers or the “incognito” mode regularly, and log out of your social media accounts when you’re not using them. Most people tend to use the same passwords across multiple services. Instead, use password managers and create a secondary email account to sign up for random services. – Abhinai Srivastava, Mashgin, Inc.
2. Don’t share any more information than is really needed.
Practice data minimization. This means that businesses should only solicit—and you should only provide—data that is necessary to the function of a product or service. If you don’t understand why a shoe store needs your social security number, then do not share it. Recent privacy legislation requires organizations to describe how our personal data will be used. Take the time to read those policies before passing along your sensitive information. – David Stapleton, CyberGRX
3. Always verify before acting.
Cyber adversaries cannot take advantage of what they cannot obtain. Often, we are rushed or think our information is not a target—but all of us are targets. Build time into your routine to verify where and with whom you are doing transactions and to maintain proper cyber hygiene. Place a call to double-check if you’re not sure. Acting with less urgency and more due diligence can reduce your risk. – Philip Quade, Fortinet
4. Never save your personal or financial details on a site.
Treat each transaction like it’s a one-time order. Never save your credit card details to online retailer sites. Always require authentication to the site—never enable “remember me” or save retail site passwords to your browser. Always use unique, complex passwords for every individual online outlet. These are simple security tips that have maximum impact. – Saryu Nayyar, Gurucul
5. Use a good password vault
Take advantage of a good password vault such as LastPass and never use the same password for any online accounts. The current group of quality password vaults allows individuals to easily generate a strong and unique password for every online account without ever having to worry about trying to remember them. Cloud vault programs are also accessible on all of a person’s devices. – Corey Thompson, BigR.io
6. Opt for multifactor authentication.
While it might seem like more work and effort to set up, consumers should opt into multifactor authentication whenever it is offered for added security. This additional step can often be quite seamless and will provide barriers to fraudulent activity while keeping personally identifiable information safer. – Glenn Larson, Acuant
7. Verify recent logins.
Regularly review the “last logged in” details in all of your accounts—these lists will usually detail the kind of client—phone, laptop and so on—as well as the time and IP address country. Does anything look out of place? It’s quick to take a glance through the list, and there’s always a “log everything out” button that you shouldn’t be afraid to use. – Alexander Hill, Senseye
8. Beware of phishing.
Don’t share personal information over email until you know the request is legitimate. Criminals know more people are shopping and banking online and use this to trick people via phishing scams. Check that the sender’s display name matches the email address, look for typos and, if you do click a link, look for a padlock in the URL bar. Still unsure? Check with the company directly. – Edward Bishop, Tessian
9. Mind The Apps You Download
Pay attention to the apps you download on the devices you use to protect your financial and purchasing information. Quit using app plugins to social media—these are known to access additional information about you. Additionally, be careful about what you post on social media. Everything you post may be tracked by hackers looking for a way into your accounts. – Laureen Knudsen, Broadcom
10. Be especially careful with your money accounts.
Take extra trouble over your money accounts. Treat them as different from all your others. Don’t reuse passwords for financial accounts—ever. Ask anyone who has your money about “two-factor authentication,” and if they don’t offer it, move your account. If possible, push for two-factor that doesn’t depend on text messages (SMS)—it’s too easy to hack. – Mike Lloyd, RedSeal
11. Install malware protection.
Install malware protection on your devices. Some options offer a free trial, allowing you to test them out and see if you prefer their scans or not. Malware consists of viruses and programs that infiltrate and damage your computer. It can be on any website, email or link. Beware of phishing, and keep your eyes on messages from friends. – Arnie Gordon, Arlyn Scales
Protecting Personal Information