Digital Hygiene

Friday, May 10th, 2019

By: Peter Vander Ploeg, CFP®

Take a shower.  Wash your hands.  Brush your teeth.  Forgive me if these statements are an unpleasant reminder of your mother, but she was right.  Not doing these daily activities could have a catastrophic impact on your health and social acceptance.  Thanks, Mom!  Yet many of us have failed at our digital hygiene, and the consequences can be equally catastrophic.  Here are some useful tips for implementing a strategy to protect you against identity theft, credit theft, and hackers.

Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is an extra line of defense to protect your data online.  Further protecting your information if a hacker steals your password.  You are probably already familiar with two-factor authentication in it’s simplest form, SMS (text) verification.  When logging-in online, you input your password (the first factor), and the company sends a text code to your phone (the second factor).  You must then enter the code to access the site.  Using SMS as your two-factor is a good start to protecting your information online and should be considered a baseline to secure your data.  For additional layers of protection click here.

Password Managers

Password managers are increasingly popular as life between phone, tablet and computer become more integrated.  There are three main benefits to using one.  First, you can auto-generate complex passwords to keep your account access safer.  Second, you can share those passwords with a trusted family member who will have access to your accounts in the case of an emergency.  And third, you will only have to remember one password to access all the sites you use even though every site can have a different complex password.  Pairing a password manager with two-factor authentication puts you way ahead of the masses in terms of digital safety.  Click here to read more about the pros and cons using a password manager.

Digital Payments

Believe it or not, hackers able to steal your card information by simply walking next to you.  A digital wallet can help protect against that happening.  Apple Pay and Samsung Pay allow you to pay retailers electronically by encrypting your credit card information.  Each time you use the card, the app creates a unique token and processing code, so the merchant never gets your actual credit card number.  Add that to your phone’s face-id or passcode, and you have a more secure way to pay.

Credit Freezes

The primary purpose of freezing your credit is to prevent any new lines from being opened in your name.  So, if you are going to buy a home, a car, or get a new credit card hold off on freezing your credit until you are through.  To place the freeze, you will need to contact the three credit bureaus directly.  The bureaus will give you a PIN to lift the freeze when you need to access your credit.  It’s also a good idea to freeze the credit of your minor children.  Hackers have started stealing the identity of minors and can create huge issues before your child turns 18.  To protect them, you can place a freeze on their record by providing a few documents.