With the start of a new year comes the opportunity to set some new goals—and stick to them. Luckily, there's one crucial goal everyone can work for, and it's also one of the easiest to reach with a few simple changes in your daily routine.
This year, make a resolution to protect your data and your privacy. These four steps will get you started:
1. Secure your smartphone. With Internet activity shifting from a secured home computer to a smartphone, there's an even greater danger of being hacked, especially through unsecured or even malicious third-party apps. Conducting activity over public Wi-Fi also is an area of concern since you don’t know who else is on the network watching your activity. Employ a VPN, which is just like a tunnel that takes you to the sites you want to use without letting others see what you're doing. VPNs typically have a cost based on the amount of data you use.
2. Protection starts at home. While it’s important to protect your mobile devices, it's equally important to safeguard your home computers and network. Using up-to-date anti-virus protection will help keep outsiders from taking a peek inside your computer, as well as prevent the download of software that can harm your computer. After installing this level of protection, make sure you secure your home Wi-Fi connection with a password so others can't conduct suspicious Internet activity on your network.
3. What passwords make the best passwords? Speaking of passwords, this is the year to develop better password habits. Make sure you are using strong passwords that contain a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Also make sure the passwords are unique. A unique password simply means that you don't use it on multiple accounts or else a hacker who uncovers your password through network infiltration will then have access to many of your accounts.
4. Watch out for yourself. One of the most important resolutions you can make this coming year is to decide to monitor your credit report on a regular basis. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the reporting agencies each year, and if you stagger those requests every few months you'll get an ongoing picture of the state of your credit. That means you'll be more likely to catch on to suspicious activity and report it before too much damage is done.
Resolutions are easy to make and even easier to break, but where your security is concerned you don't have any room for letting your guard down. A few simple changes are all it takes to keep your privacy promise to yourself and give yourself the gift of peace of mind.
Eva Velasquez CEO for the Identity Theft Resource Center.