If you’re a regular reader here, you’re probably more aware than most Canadians of the frightening multitude of cyber threats that lurk just beyond your digital doorstep.
The national government has done a great job of cataloguing these various and sundry threats, along with common-sense tactics to deploy against them. Unfortunately, hackers, state actors, and other digital rogues remain resolute in their desire to wreak havoc and grab ill-gotten gains from nefarious online activities.
The authorities can only do so much to protect Canadians from digital harm. Ultimately, our security is in our hands.
That’s doubly true when it comes to our finances, which are by nature quite personal. If you routinely access your bank account, investment accounts, credit cards, and other sensitive pieces of your financial life online, you need to know how to protect yourself from harm. Start with these five strategies.
- Only Use Secure Financial Websites
For starters, only use secure financial websites — that is, websites with obvious security measures in place, such as secure password fields and up-to-date SSL certificates. If your bank is behind the times on the security front, it could be a sign that it’s not serious about protecting your information. To be fair, all banks are held to strict information privacy standards, but enforcement is far from automatic or comprehensive.
- Never Respond to Emails With Your Password
One of the most common types of digital financial fraud is known as phishing. It’s a simple trick, really: a hacker sends out loads of emails to hundreds or thousands of addresses at a time in the hopes of getting a few trusting people to respond with sensitive information.
The most sophisticated phishing emails use top-notch graphics, text, and origination URLs to mimic authentic senders with scary precision. At a glance, such emails seem perfectly legitimate. That’s why you should never, ever respond to an email from your bank, brokerage, or benefits administrator with a password, account number, or any other bit of personal information — no matter how confident you are in the email’s provenance.
- Use Strong, Varied Passwords
On that note, don’t use a single password for all of your important accounts. Instead, use a different one for each account, and make a point of changing each password on a monthly basis. Write them down and store them in a safe, secure place if you must.
Oh, and don’t be lazy: “password123” is a bad password. Use strong passwords with lots of random letter, number, and character combinations.
- Don’t Use Public WiFi to Access Your Accounts, Period
Your data is more likely to be intercepted and co-opted in public places. The danger is especially high on public WiFi networks without password protection or local encryption. Even if you’re using an anonymizer, avoid logging into your financial accounts in public. Wait until you get to a private, password-protected network.
- Research Data Security Measures Before Doing Business
Don’t open an account with a new financial institution before researching their data security practices and history. For all you know, your new bank could just be recovering from a massive data breach. Go with operators that clearly have their ducks in a row.
Are you worried about digital threats to your personal finances?