Did you know you have a digital footprint? Everyone does. A digital footprint is the trail of data you've left on the web, and it can lead to privacy issues, risk of fraud, and identity theft that can ruin your financial reputation.
According to Consumer Reports, 65% of Americans are either only slightly or not at all confident that their personal data is private. And with good reason; it's easier than ever to manage life almost entirely online through shopping, banking, health and fitness tracking, and social media sharing. In fact, in 2021, the FBI reported that losses from cybercrimes totaled $6.9 billion.
Ready to take action? Follow these tips on securing your digital life to protect your personal and financial information and reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft.
A VPN can be a powerful tool for ensuring public WiFi security when you're not on a private internet connection. It creates digital encryption between your device and the network using the VPN as an intermediary host. Without it, hackers may be able to access unencrypted data on your device while you're on a public network, especially if you're performing sensitive tasks, like logging into your email, making an online purchase, or checking on your bank account.
Anytime you're browsing online, whether at home or on a public network, make sure any website you visit starts with "https" rather than just "http." The additional "s" stands for security and denotes extra layers of digital security. Ethos, for instance, uses the best encryption for all our pages, from policies to quote estimates. Plus, the "https" designation authenticates the website's identity and helps prevent scams like domain spoofing, where a hacker impersonates a brand by creating a lookalike website.
Shopping online is a fantastic modern-day convenience, but it also opens the door to data hackers' potential to access your financial information. Many retailers require you to create an account before checking out, which allows them to store data such as your address, birth date, and credit card details.
You then have to rely on each company to keep up with data security and avoid a breach — which, as we've seen in recent years, cannot be guaranteed. Take the time every year to delete old shopping accounts, especially those with your credit card information saved.
Location tracking is another important factor in digital life security. Most smartphones track the user's location, but apps can also access this information and use those details to customize their advertisements.
Political campaigns, police departments, and social media platforms can also use GPS location services to track data. If you're concerned about a particular organization's ability to track you, turn off your location-sharing services on your phone and within each specific app. Check back on those permissions when an update is installed since that can revert those permissions.
Speaking of software updates, they play an essential role in protecting your digital life. They're not only designed to create a more user-friendly experience, but they're also often used to address security changes and fix any weaknesses. Don't delay installing those updates when your devices request them.
Simple or repeated passwords can easily be hacked to break into your email, bank accounts, and other sensitive online accounts. You can implement a few best practices to give these accounts the most protection possible. First, don't repeat passwords across multiple logins. A hacker gaining entry to one account will automatically have access to several if you do.
Use longer passwords to make them harder to crack (think 16 characters or more) and avoid using actual words as much as possible. And above all else, don't use obvious words that someone could easily guess, like your anniversary or spouse's name.
You should be notified if a company with whom you store information has a data breach. They should email or mail you a letter if your information was affected. When that happens, it's time to change passwords on all your sensitive accounts, especially if they're similar to the breached account. Also, check for any free credit monitoring services the breached company offers and enroll in them to track fraudulent activity under your social security number.
Taking the proper steps to secure your digital life is a smart financial move. Another way to protect your financial future is to purchase a life insurance policy. Your chosen beneficiary will receive a lump sum of cash if you pass away during your life insurance term, whether you choose a set term policy or a whole life policy.
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The information and content provided herein is for informational purposes only, and it is not to be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. You should consult with an attorney or other professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs.