You need to assume that your password isn’t strong enough. You might as well believe that someone, somewhere, is working around the clock to break into your accounts and steal your money, your identity and anything else you have. Because it’s essentially true.
Maybe you’ve taken precautions. You use security software. You have set up your router’s security so hackers cannot access every device on your network, get your passwords or use your systems as a bot in their attacks.
After you do that, you’re far from done. Hackers are smart and always on the move.
Here are five simple solutions to protect your business, your nest egg and your future.
Don’t make these common mistakes with passwords
It may seem obvious that you need a strong password to keep hackers from accessing your private information and financial reports. Millions of people are sitting ducks because of insecure passwords like 12345678 or Password. They also use the same password for multiple sites.
The ground rules for passwords are: 1) It has to contain a random collection of letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers and symbols; 2) It has to be eight characters or longer; and 3) You have to create a unique password for every account.
That’s a tall order. While something like “Tl|_|,BwwB2R” is really strong, it isn’t easy to remember. Or is it? Let me show you how I came up with it.
Start by thinking up a random sentence. You can use a catchphrase, quote or even a song lyric. I chose a lyric from a Bruce Springsteen song: “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”
I took the first character from each word to get “tlu,bwwbtr”. Not bad, but it could be better. So, I added some symbols in place of similar letters. U becomes |_|, the “to” from the original lyric becomes 2. Then, I capitalized a few of the letters to make a strong password that I can easily remember: “Tl|_|,BwwB2R”.
More: Equifax data breach: Still haven’t frozen your credit since the huge hack? Here’s how.
Once you have that you can tweak the same password for multiple accounts. For Facebook, you could make it “Tl|_|$,BwwB2RFB.” Amazon can be “AmzTl|_|$,BwwB2R.” You can make a consistent scheme.
Make it harder for hackers to crack the code
Hackers can quickly figure out your password, but they can’t figure out the secret, one-time code that your bank texts to you. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a powerful security method because hackers would have to physically steal your phone, enter the correct password, and then enter that secret code.
In the wake of large-scale hacks, most major accounts offer two-factor authentication, from social media to banks.
Keep track of all your pennies
Most of us have at least one bank account (and often more) plus credit accounts, PayPal and other depositories for our money. These can be hard to keep track of, especially when you have additional investments and personal savings goals.
It’s easier to keep track of your business finances if all these accounts are aggregated in one place, right in front of your eyes.
More: Equifax data breach: How to protect yourself beyond a credit freeze
These days that means an app like Intuit’s Mint. The Mint app, and others like it, can help you set budgets and manage your bills. You can also get reminders to pay bills when they’re due.
Know your credit score
Your credit score will tell you a lot about hackers. If you see anything suspicious on them, like credit card accounts that you didn’t open, you can alert whichever credit bureau is reporting it, whether it’s Experian, Equifax or TransUnion.
Of course, it’s easier than ever to check your credit report. You can check free sites like the Discover credit card site, which says, “You don’t have to be our customer, and there’s no ding to your credit.”
The important thing is to check your credit reports. You should start with the three credit bureaus, each of which gives you one free credit report every year.
Freeze your credit
You may have heard financial advisers telling people to freeze their credit. But you may not know why they’re suggesting that.
Here’s a simple overview. Hackers will have a tough time accessing your personal information if you’ve asked the credit bureaus to freeze your credit – you can’t access it, either, unless you ask them to unfreeze it.
More: Freezing your credit is free in all states under a new law following Equifax breach
The federal government starting this year mandates that you can freeze your credit for free by calling the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They have to freeze your credit within one business day of you requesting the freeze by phone or on their websites.
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