Cybersecurity is a growing concern in all areas of life. Businesses and political entities were put on high alert when the SolarWinds hack took place back in 2019. Individuals have also suffered from countless numbers of data breaches in recent years, including big-wig names like Yahoo and Target.
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Even the rise of supposedly safe cryptocurrency has created numerous scams, like the Squid Game currency pump and dump from late 2021. Add in the rise of things like identity theft and fraudulent UI benefits claims, and one could say that the world has never felt more unsettled or threatening.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways that people can fight back against the rising threat of digital theft — particularly when it comes to their finances. Here are a variety of the best ways that you can protect your financial investments from theft, no matter where or how long you might have your money stashed away.
1. Do Your Homework with Providers
Most of these recommendations have to do with cleaning up existing financial investments. However, it’s worth taking a moment to point out that the first step in protecting your finances is choosing the right providers to work with.
This is a nuanced activity that can’t be turned into a formula. As thieves change their tactics, companies are constantly forced to adapt and adjust their business processes to stay safe. This means when setting up financial investments, you want to look for companies that are proactively taking steps to maintain the safety of their clients.
A simple example of this can be seen with the investing leaders at Nasdaq. While the financial enterprise knows how to manage its primary security needs, at one point, Nasdaq struggled with a challenging and complex identity management framework. This made it difficult to ensure that everyone could safely log in and access the right areas of its internal software systems.
Rather than sit on the growing issue, the company trusted Okta to streamline its traditional system. The IdP (identity provider) did this using tools, like its Single Sign-On (SSO) and Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), to restore both safety and ease of use to the company’s system.
When setting up a new financial investment account, always look for this kind of activity beforehand. How is the provider that you’re considering taking steps to keep its own system safe? As a rule, always opt for safe systems in order to protect your financial investments.
2. Identify Your Risks
Before you start making specific changes to your accounts, you need to understand where your risks are coming from. This is understandably a very open-ended request. There is no end to the number of fraudulent threats that both exist and are coming into existence.
Nevertheless, it’s worth taking the time to identify whatever risks are particularly present in your current financial accounts. For instance, Kiplinger points out six primary risks at the moment, which include:
Synthetic identity theft;
Government benefits and tax scams.
Each of these concerns threatens different areas of the financial sector. It’s wise to organize your financial accounts to see which of these risks should be on your radar.
Start by taking the time to understand what you have. Then make sure that you know where each account is. Finally, use the rest of the steps in this resource to ensure that each account is safe and secure.
3. Guard Against Identity Theft
Your identity is the primary gateway to your financial investments. There are plenty of ways that a criminal can try to raid a single account. But if they can masquerade as you, they have a real shot at getting into multiple places.
With that in mind, one of the best steps you can take to protect your investments in an indirect manner is by protecting your identity. Consumer Affairs reports that there was a 311% increase in identity theft victims between 2019 and 2020. The catalyst for the dramatic rise? The pandemic.
The site explains that working from home removed many individuals from the safety of professional, corporate networks. This opens countless people up to the threat of cybersecurity risks — including identity theft.
Many financial experts recommend signing up for identity theft protection as an easy way to help safeguard against having one’s identity stolen. This can usually be done for free and, while it takes some work, is well worth the effort as an added layer of protection for yourself as well as your finances.
4. Cover the Basics
Thus far, we’ve discussed high-level activities to protect financial investments. However, at a certain point, you also need to get down in the trenches and do some of the dirty work.
These basic security activities revolve around simple-yet-crucial safety measures that are as old as the internet. For instance, when discussing safeguarding financial information, Finra starts off with the triple recommendation to protect usernames, passwords, and PINs.
There are many ways to do this. Strong PINs usually consist of at least eight numbers and, at times, even symbols. Passwords should be long and strong, as well.
In addition to initially creating good passwords and PINs, there are many ways to keep them fresh over time. Changing passwords often is recommended. Utilizing multi-factor identification is also wise. Don’t use the same password across multiple accounts, either. Many experts suggest using a password manager to help keep everything in order while also keeping your accounts safe.
5. Protect Your Network and Devices
Along with your digital passwords and PINs, you also want to protect your physical hardware. This includes your network (i.e. your router) and the devices that you use to access the internet via that network.
There are many ways that you can protect your local network and devices. For instance, you can:
Set up firewalls on both your devices and your network to protect against meddlesome viruses and other cyber threats.
Use a VPN (a virtual private network) to shroud your activity and make it harder for criminals to track.
Install robust security software to provide cutting-edge cybersecurity protection.
Turn on automatic updates to keep all of your software patched and protected.
Your personal network and devices can be a weak link in your financial protection plan. Make sure to take the time to transform them from a potential backdoor into a safe haven where you can tend to your finances with peace of mind.
6. Avoid Direct Bank Connections and Public Networks
Criminals love to use public connections to attack innocent victims. That’s why the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recommends totally avoiding using public computers to access financial accounts.
If you find that you have to use a computer on a public network, the department recommends a few steps to help you do so safely. For example, they suggest never putting in personal information to gain access to something on a public computer. They also suggest never walking away from the computer while you’re logged in, logging out when done, and disabling password-saving features.
Along with the SEC suggestions for public computers, it’s also wise to avoid connecting your bank account to anything you don’t have to. Rather than using a debit card, always use a credit card when possible.
When visiting websites, get into the habit of checking to see if they’re safe, as well. Look for the “https” rather than just “http” at the beginning of the URL —the extra “s” means “secure.” Also look for a secure symbol, like a lock, before the URL.
7. Be Smart and Stay Aware With Financial Activity
Finally, make sure to cultivate smart cybersecurity best practices throughout your life. A handful of obvious ones that come to mind include:
Never respond to a request from someone you don’t know with any personal information.
Use credit freezes as a way to lock down your finances in times of concern.
Check on your credit reports often — download your free report from each credit bureau every year at the least.
Turn notifications on with all of your financially-related apps and sites to ensure that you’re aware of suspicious activity (or anything that needs your attention) as soon as it happens.
These are just a few recommendations. The important thing is that you accustom yourself to maintaining a certain level of awareness when it comes to your financial investments.
This brings our list full circle with the first recommendations, too. Always start by vetting your financial institutions and assessing potential risks. Once that’s done, take steps, like those recommended above, to guard your investments.
Even when that’s done, though, don’t get overly confident in your safety. The cybersecurity world is always changing, and fresh threats are popping up all the time. Maintain a sense of awareness as you proactively work to protect your financial investments from theft on a regular basis.
Once that has been set in motion, you can rest with real peace of mind knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to keep your financial future safe.
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