Is Your Family's Data Protected? How to Safeguard Against a Hack

Billions of people were victimized by hacks, data breaches and cyberattacks last year, adding up to tens of millions of dollars in losses, according to USA Today and Positive Technologies. In addition to potential identity theft and the financial implications of a cyberattack, they can also compromise your family’s personal information and online safety and security for years to come.

With the frequency of hacks increasing each year as cybercriminals grow more sophisticated, it’s key to take a variety of digital precautions to protect your family’s data. Here are a few simple tips and tools that can help.

Use stronger passwords

This one may sound like a no-brainer, but poor password security is one of the most common reasons a hack occurs. It might be tempting to use a simple password based on personal information in order to remember it, but this makes you an easy target for hackers. Such passwords can usually be hacked in mere seconds. Instead, use a password that is at least 12 characters long and includes a variety of different characters and letters in upper and lower case. More importantly, change it a few times each year. Additionally, consider using a password manager. These apps create and manage secure, strong and unique passwords for all of your online accounts. While the safety of password managing software has been debated (it isn’t absolutely secure from a breach itself, of course) experts do recommend using one. A password manager is capable of protecting your sensitive information much more efficiently than a weak password used across several platforms.

Protect yourself when digitizing

After scanning records to create a digital filing system, it’s essential to back them up immediately. In order to protect important files from being compromised by a virus, hack or disaster that affects your computer’s hard drive (or physical backup drive), it’s critical to use trusted cloud software. Scanners within the ScanSnap line even offer direct-to-cloud scanning compatible with software such as Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and others. However, it’s important to be extra careful when storing highly sensitive personal data using cloud software. Do your research when choosing which cloud provider suits you best, including its reputation and security practices. For instance, ensure the platform encrypts data during transfer, check how it authenticates users and research what the provider’s protocol is concerning monitoring for and protecting against a breach.

Use Wi-Fi wisely

Consider how frequently you utilize Wi-Fi in a public place such as a coffee shop, co-working space, library or hotel. This is no longer a luxury but an expected convenience that we seek out. Unfortunately, a public connection can be a nightmare in terms of safety and the security of your data. When using one, don’t share any sensitive information (such as credit card details or a social security number). If you absolutely must, stick to major, trusted chains that offer Wi-Fi and invest in a VPN - or virtual private network - to ensure your connection is secure. It can also be safer to use your phone carrier’s data than an unsecured public Wi-Fi connection, so consider using your smartphone or personal hotspot when on the go.

Educate and empower your family

Once you’ve done your due diligence in protecting yourself online, share the knowledge with your family. Consider the ways in which your spouse, children, parents or other loved ones may be vulnerable to a hack. Speak with them about the apps they use and how to best protect their information. Go through their privacy settings with them together to ensure their security and sharing permissions are strong. Remind them to consider when and where they shop online before sharing credit card details. Discuss phishing scams and how to identify a dangerous email, website or message. Explain the importance of protecting their sensitive data, details that should never be shared online and how to create a strong password. While no method is 100 percent guaranteed as cybersecurity hacks evolve, empowering the entire family with a digital safety toolbox is the best way to safeguard yourselves and your devices against a hack.

What other methods do you find useful to protect your personal data?