Breaking Bad Online Habits

By Megan Morrow

January is the month of New Year’s resolutions – exercise more, stop smoking, eat more vegetables, try something new – yet “break bad online habits” is probably not a top 10 resolution, even though it likely should be. As we perform more life tasks online, such as paying bills, downloading new apps, keeping in touch with old friends and sharing funny videos, we do not always pause to think of the best ways to keep our personal data secure and private.

Following are three steps you can take to break your bad online habits and set the stage for a safe and secure 2020:

  1. Avoid using the same passwords over and over again. Granted, it is easier to remember your passwords when they are all a variation of your kids’ names, your address or your birthday, for example. However, when you recycle passwords, a hacker who uncovers one password will have much easier access into the rest of your accounts. You can save your most robust, complicated passwords for financial sites.
  2. Resist the temptation to say “yes” without more careful examination. Scam emails are getting more sophisticated, so it is always wise to verify online requests for money or account access, while many apps will ask for your location or the ability to access other account features. Offer the bare minimum of information when you launch a new app or website and say “no” to most location requests (other than maps, which need to know where you are so they can get you to your next destination).
  3. Lock your devices. Many people assume work laptops are safe and that their phones are usually nearby, thus choosing not to use “lock screen” protections. It only takes a few moments for someone to install spyware or malware on your device or to see confidential information that you have left up regarding clients or your own personal information. This is a simple step that can protect you at work and at home.

Other simple changes you can make to protect yourself include: never check your bank accounts over public wi-fi, pay attention to anti-virus updates, do not click on links or download files from suspicious or strange email addresses, and always take advantage of the free annual opportunity to check your credit report.

While online banking, shopping and communication can offer ease and convenience, they can also lead to identify theft and long-term issues: If you have not already, make online security one of your New Year’s resolutions.

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The material presented here is for information purposes only and is not to be considered an offer to buy or sell any security. This report was prepared from sources believed to be reliable but it is not guaranteed as to accuracy and it is not a complete summary of statement of all available data. Information and opinions are current up to the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. The purchase and sale of securities should be conducted on an individual basis considering the risk tolerance and investment objective of each investor and with the advice and counsel of a professional advisor. The opinions expressed by Ms. Morrow are strictly her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Herbert J. Sims & Co., Inc. or their affiliates. This is not a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell any particular investment. All investment involves risk and may result in a loss of principal. Investors should carefully consider their own circumstances before making any investment decision.