What are the odds of getting your identity stolen? If you use tech gadgets daily, we’d say the odds are pretty high. Today’s tech threats go beyond your desktop: Anything with an internet connection—including smartphones, wearable fitness trackers, voice-enabled digital assistants, etc. are all vulnerable to cyber thieves.
To stay safe, you’ll need more than a password to keep your data secure and protect yourself from identity theft—which has nabbed the top spot in the global most reported fraud cases.
According to industry sources, identity theft was the #1 type of fraud reported by Americans in 2019. To be more precise, 33% of American adults have experienced some form of identity theft, which is twice the global average.
Because your digital devices are always on the radar for cybercriminals, protecting them should be your number one priority. In this article, we’ll explore the various ways you can protect your devices to prevent identity theft.
1. Encrypt Your Hard Drive
A password alone can’t stop crooks from hacking and stealing your data files. Hackers can remove your drive, install it in their systems, and copy all your data files. However, with encryption, your drive will be of no use to them, even if they manage to steal it.
So what’s encryption all about?
Encryption is a data protection method that ensures information is only accessible to authorized personnel. Encryption turns your data into a puzzle that only your password can unlock. Here are the various forms of encryption that you can employ to keep your data safe.
Single File Encryption
If you have only one sensitive file that you’d want to protect from unauthorized persons, single file encryption can do the trick. This form of encryption encrypts a single file. The protected file can be unlocked with a key or password.
Full Disk Encryption
If you want the ultimate security for your laptop, full disk encryption is the way to go. This form of encryption encrypts the entire hard drive, so it can protect all your files in the event your laptop is stolen.
This form of encryption employs ‘shared keys’ to give multiple users access to encrypted data. It works great in a corporate setup.
There are many software programs, such as AxCrypt, that you can use to encrypt your computer. Some of these programs are free so you can securely protect your data without spending a dime.
2. Use a Two-Factor Authentication
To an identity thief, cracking your phone’s password is like winning a mega jackpot. Enabling two-step authentication on various apps makes you less vulnerable to identity theft.
Two-step authentication requires a password and separate code sent to the owner to gain access to certain apps or files. It adds an extra layer of security to your phone/laptop while keeping your data safe from unauthorized hands. It’s advisable to activate it on apps like Gmail, One Drive, and Facebook where scammers can find your private information.
3. Update Your Gadgets Regularly
Whether you use a phone, tablet, or PC to access the internet, you’re likely to have at least ten applications installed. If not kept up to date, these applications can leave your devices vulnerable to cyber thieves.
Software developers usually release security patches from time to time. It’s best to install these updates to avoid a security breach.
Keep in mind that old software programs are vulnerable to security breaches. By updating your apps, you’re getting rid of any security vulnerabilities that were present in the previous iterations of the software. For more on this, check out this article on how to prevent identity theft, and learn more about WannaCry malware attack, and how it affected millions of computers due to a software flaw that could have been fixed via Windows update.
4. Only Shop on Secure Sites
While protecting your devices is paramount, security starts with you. Be careful when shopping online as some sites may do more than what you asked for.
Before entering your card details, always ensure the locked padlock symbol is appearing in your browser. Additionally, ensure the retailer’s address has the HTTPS protocol. Sites that use HTTP or revert to HTTP after you’re logged in are not secure.
The HTTPS (short for Hypertext Protocol Transfer Secure) appears in the URL only when a website is secured by an SSL certificate. Hackers find it difficult to decrypt a secured site and usually attack sites that are unsecured (have no SSL).
5. Use Antivirus and Antimalware Software
In 2010, the German Security Institute, AV-Test, reported that there are 49 million strains of malware. Shocking, right?
With such a high number of malicious programs circulating the web, chances are one of your tech gadgets could be infected. These programs create loopholes for cybercriminals to gain access to your confidential information.
Keep your devices safe by investing in a good antivirus program. A good security program can keep you protected at all times from viruses, malware, hacking, and phishing. They may also help to sniff out malicious apps and even flag phishing websites that serve as hiding grounds for cybercriminals.
6. Secure Your Gadgets with Strong Passwords
If you store very sensitive information on your devices, then you need to protect them with strong passwords.
A strong password should be your first line of defense. Skip the easy to hack 4-digit pin and create a strong 8-character password that includes a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters. Also, avoid recognizable passwords that could be associated with you.
For instance, Jane1990 may seem like a strong 8-character password, but that’s the first thing that will cross the thief’s mind—your name + the date of birth. Instead, go for something that’s harder to crack, like J!sf2345@.
In addition to that, leverage your phone’s built-in security features. For instance, if your phone is equipped with a fingerprint reader or iris scanning technology, use that as your screen unlock mechanism.
7. Avoid Installing Apps from Unknown Sources
The Play Store and App Store may have millions of apps, but they are not the only options out there. Maybe you want an app that isn’t on the Play Store. So you turn on the “Unknown Sources,” switch to allow your phone to download the app from external sources.
While this may sound like a great idea, you’re opening up your phone to a multitude of unwanted viruses. Be very cautious with apps from unknown sources. Malware and other malicious programs lurk in unofficial app stores that lack the strict security measures you’ll find on the Play Store and Apple App Store.
Your devices hold the key that scammers helplessly want to make a fortune out of your life. With that in mind, protecting those tech gadgets should be your number one priority. In addition to protecting your gadgets, you should also be wary of free public Wi-Fi. If not secured, scammers can use that Wi-Fi to spy on everything you do online.