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Cybersecurity Tips for the New Year

December 19, 2018 BY Mark Haser

With just a few weeks left in 2018, it’s of course a great time to review your finances and make sure you start 2019 off on the right foot. It’s also a great time to review each of your online accounts and bolster your security measures (as the hackers in cyberspace are always inventing new schemes and techniques to defraud you!). With that in mind, here are my cybersecurity tips for your financial accounts as we head into the new year:

1. Utilize Two-Factor Authentication

  • At this point, two-factor authentication is nothing new, yet still only 28% of people take advantage of it to create an extra layer of security for their online accounts. Two-factor authentication is a way for people to prove their identity in two ways—using something they know (like a password) and something they have (like their phone or a security key)—to gain access to an account. While it doesn’t guarantee your account can’t be hacked, it makes it significantly more difficult. And while you’re at it, be sure to enable two-factor authentication on whichever email account you have your password reset emails sent to.

2. Create a Unique UserID for Each Account

  • Everyone knows the importance of a strong and unique password for each account, but the password is only one half of the equation. Hackers need two things (at a minimum) to break into your accounts: your password and your UserID. You should treat your UserID as equally important to your password. Make it unique for each account and don’t share it with anyone!

3. Use Fake Answers for your Security Questions

  • Your father’s middle name and your high school mascot aren’t exactly difficult for someone to find out. I suggest using fake answers to these and any other security questions you fill out. If you’re worried about remembering your fake answers, try using the real answer and then simply adding a series of numbers/letters that you can remember at the end of the real answer. Much like two-factor authentication, security questions can add some serious security to your accounts, but only if the whole world doesn’t know the answers to your questions!

4. Utilize biometric security

  • Biometric security includes fingerprint scanning and facial recognition. This is the latest and greatest in security measures,as anyone with a newer smartphone can tell you. And now some financial institutions, including Vanguard, Chase, and HSBC, are using voice recognition to identify you when you call in to speak with a representative. The voice recognition technology used by HSBC Bank looks at 100 unique markers in a person’s voice, and is said to be more secure than a fingerprint scan. This means that even if a fraudster knows everything about you (your social security number, address, account number, and anything else a phone rep might ask) they still won’t be able to access your accounts by phone…nice!

5. Setup email or push notifications

  • If someone attempts to access your account from an unrecognized device, wouldn’t it be nice to know within a few seconds so you can take action? This is where email and push notifications to your smart phone come in handy. Most financial institutions allow you to set up these alerts for certain types of transactions, account changes, and any unusual or suspicious activity. Bank of America will even send you reminders to update your password every 90 days…that’ll really keep the hackers guessing!

6. Freeze your credit with all three major Credit Bureaus

  • Hackers aren’t just trying to gain access to your existing accounts, they also use your personal information to try and open new accounts in your name. You may hear advice to “periodically review & monitor your credit report,” but this is purely reactive in nature and won’t stop, or even deter, anyone from trying to steal your identity. Instead, you should freeze your credit with all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can do this online in about 15 minutes and it’s simple to lift the freeze should you ever want to get a new credit card or apply for a loan. 

Conclusion

There are lots of other ways to keep your financial information secure, but even implementing just a few of these tips should help to bolster your account security from most hackers and fraudsters out there. I hope you make a point of it to implement a few of these before the new year!

Got any of your own tips for staying secure online? If so, give us a call or send us an email, we’d love to hear them!

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Mark Haser, M.B.A., is a financial planner at Artemis Advisors. His areas of interest include retirement and education planning, risk management, and cash flow management.

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