Pixels. The tiny colored dots on the screen that, when combined just right, represent our photo and video memories, finances, interactions, purchases, and so much more. A few extra pixels on the screen can mean the difference between having $10 in your bank account or $10,000,000. All of these pixels form our digital footprint, which contains all of the information that lives on the internet as a result of our online activities. Worth protecting? It’s literally worth EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT!
Here are some tips to help safeguard your digital life:
• Passwords—Use passwords that contain a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Use phrases instead of single words (e.g. F!r$tGradeT3acher). Use different passwords for each type of account such as banking, shopping, social media and mailing lists and set a recurring alarm on your smartphone to change them every four to six months.
• Update Your Software—Sure it’s annoying and sometimes it takes a while but those updates are typically full of security patches. If you’re one of those people who ignore the updates, you’re potentially leaving the door wide open.
• App/Software Downloads—Download apps and software from reputable sites such as the Apple App Store or Google Play. Read reviews before downloading and review permission requests.
• Bluetooth and WiFi—Turn them off when not using them. Assume that public WiFi hotspots like libraries, subway stations, airplanes, cafés, and parks are not using encrypted data so NEVER access financial accounts or sensitive accounts on them.
• Email—Email is not secure. Never send passwords, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or any other sensitive data in email. Never open emails from anyone you don’t recognize and NEVER click on links inside any email that is asking for personal information. Instead, visit the entity’s official website and conduct your business there. If your gut tells you something may be wrong, it probably is. Don’t hoard email—delete unnecessary emails from both your inbox and your trash folders.
• Identity Theft Protection Services—Subscribe to an identity theft protection service. I have been using Lifelock.com for almost 10 years. While no service is 100 percent guaranteed, some protection is better than no protection. They will scan the internet for your information, public records, unusual activities and alert you if something seems off.
• Mobile Wallets—Apple Pay and Google Pay are available on almost every smartphone. Just link your favorite credit and debit cards to your mobile wallet and pay for your in-store purchases by tapping your phone and using your fingerprint. They work by assigning a temporary credit card number for your purchase. If the store’s data is ever stolen (remember data breaches at Target and Home Depot?) all the criminals can get is your temporary credit card number that cannot be used again or traced to your real number. Try to shop in places that accept Apple Pay or Google Pay. If a store you frequent doesn’t accept mobile wallet payments, let the manager know that it is important to you.
Have a tech question? Send your question to NYCWebwiz@icloud.com or tweet @WebWizSolutions and we’ll try to answer it here.
Rich Suweidan, a.k.a. Webwizard, is a webmaster for the city of New York. He is also the chief principal and webmaster of Webwizard Solutions LLC, designing websites for almost 20 years. Can you afford your own website? If you have a business you can’t afford not to have one! Visit webwizardsolutions.net.