How you can protect yourself online in 4 ways

No matter if you're banking online or shopping, security should always remain a top priority.

Even the most secure of individuals can fall victim to online crimes, such as stolen passwords to bank accounts or worse, stolen identities.

Throughout the month of October, Landmark Bank will be highlighting the various methods you can protect yourself while online. Whether you're on a laptop, tablet or smartphone, you need to know best practices and how criminals might try to inflict harm.

Identity theft

Identity theft is a serious crime that involves someone else impersonating you. By doing so, a criminal has the ability to open up bank accounts, credit cards and more that could possibly damage your credit report. Such moves ultimately hurt your personal finances.

In other instances, criminals might have stolen your bank account information and conduct transactions without your consent.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 17.6 million Americans were the victims of identity theft in 2014. This is an increase over 2012's numbers, when 16.6 million individuals were affected by this type of crime.

Throughout National Cybersecurity Month and beyond, there are numerous safety tips to keep in mind, as there are a variety of ways you might unexpectedly expose personal information.

Monitor your transactions

While much has been said about how individuals are constantly staring down at their phone screens, having these devices on at all times is actually quite helpful when it comes to monitoring your financial transactions.

By installing the Landmark Bank on your Apple or Android device, you can turn on notifications. Doing so will send you alerts every time there's a transaction over a specified amount. You can create these notifications for any amount - as little as $0.01 or $500.

Person shopping online.

No matter what you're doing online, you need to keep security in mind.

Your secrets are your own

Under no circumstance should you share any of the following personal information:

  • Social Security number
  • PINs
  • Account passwords

Sharing these details, particularly online, can be dangerous as your computer or the recipient's machine could be compromised.

You'll also have to be on the lookout for other situations where your secret personal information may be at risk. Take the ATM, for example. In public places you might need to withdraw money while a line forms behind you.

To prevent your PIN from being stolen by a close onlooker, use one hand to punch in the four digits and the other as a shield. Avoid storing your PIN in emails or services online as well.

As for passwords, you need a unique and strong phrase for each and every one of your online accounts. Try to avoid common phrases such as "password" or "1234". Criminals will often try to brute force their way into their accounts using commonly used phrases.

Passwords should be a string of letters, numbers and special characters. A good rule of thumb is to take a phrase that means something to you on a personal level and play around with capitalization and more.

For instance, capitalize random letters while throwing in characters like "%" or "&" throughout the phrase. You can even use characters to help spell out a phrase, as "a" can be replaced with the "@" sign.

"You need a unique and strong phrase for each and every one of your online accounts."

Now you also have to remember your passwords. Try to avoid writing them down on a piece of paper, since it can be easily misplaced. Instead, consider using a password manager. These programs are usually available on computers and mobile.

Wired magazine compiled a list of free password managers you might be interested in using. It doesn't hurt to try a few of them out before settling on one.

Protect your equipment

Your hardware also needs to be protected at all times. To do so, stay on top of updates that are pushed out, including new operating systems. Oftentimes, these updates include important security fixes that patch up vulnerable holes that online attackers often look to exploit.

Additionally, using old versions of operating systems exposes you to threats because macOS and Windows - the two dominant operating systems - will stop being supported past a certain version number.

According to Microsoft, if you're still running Windows Vista, you will no longer receive support on April 11, 2017, while support for Windows XP has long been expired. On the mac OS side, the oldest operating system version to receive an update recently was 10.9 Mavericks.

You don't necessarily have to turn on automatic updates, but you should still be aware of when new versions are pushed through.

Stay with Landmark Bank throughout the rest of the month to find out more ways how to protect yourself while you're online, whether you're banking or simply checking your emails.

For more tips and updates on the latest in banking technology, contact Landmark Bank.

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