Online security has been a hot topic of conversation lately, and it’s easy to see why. It seems like every week we’re hearing a story about another breach, and many people are becoming wary about the accessibility of their financial information. It’s hard to forget mega retailer Target Corp.’s recent data hack, deemed one of the biggest cybercrimes of all time, and just last month China was accused of hacking into Canada’s National Research Council.
Pretty ominous stuff. Some find themselves asking: If so many big companies can be hacked, will my personal information be next? Is refraining from any online interactions the only way to keep it safe?
The Pitfalls of This Response
While it would be great to lock yourself and all your money in a steel, communication-proof cage (a la Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State), in practice this solution is unrealistic at best. In today’s technological age, you need to be able to transfer money online, use an ATM, and track your budget expenses.
Not to mention – when hackers obtain your financials, they’re after one thing: actionable information.
They want to charge your credit cards, steal your identity and open new credit cards. They need your credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank and routing numbers, security codes, etc…
A steel cage would fall short in this case, since you give that information out all the time. Many, many companies probably already have this information… along with more personal details like addresses, birth dates and the names of your family members.
Some other unfortunate realities about those companies:
- They are already using the cloud and putting everything online or at data centers.
- They have set up systems to streamline communications between themselves, banks and vendors which are also online or electronic.
- They have employees that have access to this information (hopefully limited – but this is the most common way hacks occur).
Fortunately, short of a steel cage, there are still plenty of measures you can take to keep your financial information safe from hackers. Follow these 7 simple tips to protect yourself:
How to Protect Your Financial Security
Financial Security Tip # 1: Sign up for dual factor authentication on all your accounts/services right now.
Dual authentication is a great option for doubling the security of any login information. In most cases, this works via text message: Whenever an unknown computer tries to access your account, you’ll receive a text message with a code that must be entered along with your password.
That way, in order for someone to hack your account, they would need both your login info and phone. Since this is unlikely, requiring both makes things much more secure.
Financial Security Tip # 2: Monitor your accounts.
One of the best measures you can take is to keep tabs on what is going on in your financial accounts. This will allow you to notify the banks immediately if something goes wrong.
At Cordant, we provide our clients with an aggregated system that allows for this. Make sure your financial advisor and other partners are committed to the protection of your information.
Financial Security Tip # 3: Use a password manager.
Do not make the mistake of keeping all your passwords in a book that you carry with you, on your desk at home, or in a “passwords” file on your computer!
A good password manager, like LastPass, will store your passwords for you and encrypt them in such a way that does not give the company access to your information.
Financial Security Tip # 4: Create a different, strong password for every account.
This might sound insane to keep track of, but since you’re already using a password manager it should be easy. The password manager can randomly generate the passwords for you, and fill them in on both your computer and your phone.
That way, if your password to a site is stolen you will only need to change that password and not all of them.
Also, if the password is random and strong it will be harder to crack. When passwords are stolen from sites, usually they are stolen in an encrypted format. This means the hacker still has to crack them – and the stronger the password, the longer you have to determine the breach has occurred.
Financial Security Tip # 5: Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
This is the primary way to transfer money without the ability to pull it back. If you initiate a wire make sure it is to a place that you know… and not to the queen of a small country you’ve never heard of.
Financial Security Tip # 6: Consider credit-monitoring services.
A credit monitoring service can be invaluable, by immediately alerting you to fraud and working with you to contact all companies involved.
If you don’t want to pay for credit monitoring, you should at least check your credit report annually (this is free).
Financial Security Tip # 7: Shred your sensitive documents.
In the movies, hackers find a highly technical and innovative way to get to your information. In practice, a high percentage of attacks are carried out the old fashion way.
Don’t just throw away your sensitive info. If you don’t have time to shred yourself, there are lots of places that will shed your documents onsite for a small per pound fee.
The Good News
Fortunately, in most cases, you will not be financially liable for any breach of security. It is in the banking industry’s best interest for you to trust the system, and spend as much money as possible on your credit card. (If someone else transferred money without your authorization, whom would you blame?) For this reason, the banks hold the brunt of the liability, work hard to make sure your money is safe, and in most cases will reimburse any funds lost.
All that said, it is still important to take whatever measures you can to ensure the tightest security possible. Consider these tips when you approach your financial information, and give yourself a “steel cage” of protection.
To learn more about how Cordant helps its clients manage their wealth, visit our Wealth Management Services page or give us a call at 503.621.9207.
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