It seems like every time you watch the news, you hear of another online security breach that affects millions of people. Recent breaches including Target and a few other major stores, illustrate the importance of online security, something many people still overlook.
It’s hard to get away from using the Internet for everything from shopping online, to online banking or simply communicating by email, and many people are concerned about their online security.
In fact, the question most often asked by many of our clients is, “What is the best way to protect my financial information online?”
In this short article, I will review the top ways you can protect your personal financial information online.
Websites that deal in personal or financial information typically offer secure connections. With a secure connection, your data is encrypted so that it cannot be easily read by anyone who is not authorized to do so.
How to tell if you’re on a secure website:
If you check your email with a Web browser (whether on a desktop, a laptop, a smartphone, or a tablet), take a moment to ensure that SSL/TLS encryption is active. If it is, the website address (URL) will begin with https instead of http. Depending on your browser, you should see some additional indication, such as a notification next to the address bar or a small yellow padlock icon on the status bar at the bottom of the browser window (see below).
Encrypting your personal information:
Encryption is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that only authorized parties can read it. When sending your important financial information to your advisor online, you should consider encrypting the information so that only authorized persons like your advisor are able to read it.
Using a personal online portal:
Glassman Wealth Services provides a personal online portal to all of our clients and we ask them to upload any forms or documents that contain personal information directly to their portal. This eliminates the need to send this unprotected information via email, and is often the most secure way to exchange information.
2. Choosing good passwords
If you’re like me, it’s difficult to remember all of the passwords that you have created for your online accounts. Therefore, many people use the same password for multiple accounts. I have one, simple piece of advice – stop doing that. This is highly risky and could give hackers access to all of your personal accounts if they have your one password.
Choosing a solid password is very important, especially for your financial accounts. The key to creating decent passwords is to follow a few simple rules:
- Use at least 8 characters with a combination of different character types, such as T0o@1%f&.
- Combine characters with letters and numbers.
- Avoid having a password that contains a line of letters directly from your keyboard – such as “asdfghjkl”.
Many websites will now rate your password from strong to weak, which should help the password creation process.
You should never give your passwords to anyone and never send your passwords via email since it’s possible for someone who is monitoring your web activity to obtain the password. You should certainly never enter your password to an account on an unprotected website.
Keeping track of your passwords
There are many tools that will allow you to keep track of your passwords for each separate site such as Apple’s iCloud Keychain® or any of the highly rated password safes available in the iTunes store. Personally, I have used a password-protected spreadsheet, which is also encrypted to store all of my passwords.
3. When to use a secure connection
According to Apple.com a secure connection is usually made for you when needed. For example, when you log into a commercial website or create a new account on a website which requires your personal information, these sites automatically switch to a secure connection when requesting or displaying sensitive information. The next time you log in to a website requesting personal information, be sure the website changes to a secure connection by checking for the https at the beginning on the website name.
Some websites may offer both secure and non-secure login options. You should always choose a secure login. (Some older browsers cannot use secure connections.)
Protecting your online privacy is an ever-evolving topic. By monitoring your online activity and following the tips I have mentioned, you’ll give yourself the best chance to avoid having your personal information fall into the hands of those who would love to have a shopping spree at Amazon with your money.