Control your data and share with care to avoid cyber thieves

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QUINCY — It’s tough to keep track of your info in an increasingly connected world. As we rely more on online services for daily activities, it’s more important than ever to be in control of your data.

Quite a bit of personal information is already shared on the internet by cell phones, tablets, laptops or any other device that connects through wifi or an internet provider. These access points make it easier to shop, bank, make travel arrangements and keep in touch with friends or family, but they might also allow fraudsters to access your information.

While it may seem like there’s nothing you can do to stop a cyberattack, there are some precautions you can take to help guard against losing important personal information to cyber thieves.

BBB and the National Cyber Security Alliance offer the following tips to keep your data secure online:

  • Share with care. Posts on social media last a long time. Consider who will see the post, how readers might perceive it and what information it might reveal about the individual posting it.
  • Manage your privacy settings. Check the privacy and security settings on web services and apps and set them to your comfort level for information sharing. Each device, application or browser used will have different features to limit how and with whom you share information.
  • Know what personal info you’re sharing with businesses. Personal information, such as purchase history, IP address, or location, has tremendous value to businesses – just like money. Make informed decisions about whether or not to share data with certain businesses by considering the amount of personal information they are asking for and weighing it against the benefits you may receive in return.
  • Make your passwords long and strong. Use long passwords with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols – eight characters for most accounts and twelve characters for email and financial accounts. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts, especially email and financial accounts. Keep a paper list of your passwords in a safe place (not on or near your computer) or consider using a password vault application.
  • Keep tabs on apps. Many apps ask for access to personal information, such as your location, contacts list and photo album. Be thoughtful about who gets that information, and be wary of apps that require access to information that is not required or relevant to the services they offer. Delete unused apps on your devices and keep devices secure by updating them regularly.
  • Lock down your login. For your online accounts, use the strongest authentication tools available. Your usernames and passwords are not enough; consider two-factor authentication for key accounts like email, banking, and social media, especially on mobile devices.
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar links. Whether at home or at work, don’t click on links from unfamiliar sources or unexpected correspondence. One wrong click can infect a whole computer.
  • Pay attention to internet-connected devices. Smart thermostats, voice control systems, cars, and even refrigerators are just the beginning of the growing list of devices that can watch our homes and track our locations. Read the privacy policy and understand what data is being collected and how it will be used.

Don O’Brien is the regional director for the Quincy Better Business Bureau. Contact him at dobrien@quincybbb.org or 217-209-3972

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