The IRS and its Security Summit partners are spearheading an awareness campaign for tax professionals in an effort to protect client data in its ongoing fight against various security threats. Although our clients’ security is something that we consider a high priority, many of the tips put out for professionals work on the personal level, as well. The best security takes place at many levels, so I wanted to pass along some of these tips to you this week.
First, have anti-malware and anti-virus security on all electronic devices. This can hold off many attacks that could expose your information without you ever knowing. A critical addendum to this, though, can be setting your software to automatically update. I know it can be annoying when your phone or some software programs keep telling you to download the latest version, but many times those updates include fixes that enhance security.
After that, keep passwords on everything that can have one. This includes password protecting wireless devices. After all, even if you don’t think you have critical personal information saved on the device, have you ever visited your banking website on its browser? Or checked a credit card balance? You may have information saved on the device that you are unaware of, and could be used against you if it fell into the wrong hands.
Then, of course, there are the passwords you use to access all those websites mentioned above – or any website really. For are you using the same password to get into your bank as you are your Netflix account? Once a password is found somewhere, it is easier to track down usernames, and if you’re using the same password everywhere, you’re making it easier to get at your information.
Not only should your passwords be different everywhere, but you also want to use different kinds of passwords. Sure, your kid’s name and birthday is easier to remember, but using special characters, random capitalizations, numbers, etc., all make it more difficult to figure out just what that password is.
If you are saving any sensitive information on your computer or in any cloud-based service, you want it to be protected by more than just a password, too. Ensure that these places are encrypting information. If they’re not, I promise that with only minimal research you can find a similar service for the same price that will do so and give you that extra level of safety.
Finally, if you do keep some of that information on a hard drive, remember that before you get rid of the device. This is easier to think about if you know it is still going to be used by someone else, but can be overlooked if you’re just trashing a device. But if you are throwing it away, hey, destroying that hard drive can even be a little fun and help you take out some aggression (just think of every time technology has made you throw up your hands).
None of these tips will have you doing things the easiest way, but they are the safest way. And if you are ever in a situation where someone has information about you that you wish they didn’t, you will think that it would have been time well spent.
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