A lot of personal information is stored on mobile devices. If a cell phone, laptop, or tablet without proper security is misplaced, hackers could access all this information, stealing identities or performing illegal activities. The following T.I.P. procedures makes it more difficult for your information to be discovered and better protects you from the expensive and challenging process of recovering from identity theft.
- Require a four- to six-digit passcode to unlock devices and do NOT use 1-2-3-4, 1-1-1-1, 2-2-2-2, etc. Set up the device to erase data after too many failed attempts.
- Remove old texts, emails, and received calls. If hackers do breach the passcode, this will minimize the amount of information available.
- Keep device software up-to-date. Updates and patches often contain fixes to known security vulnerabilities which hackers exploit.
- Only install apps from authorized sites. Thieves have actually developed apps that look authentic to capture credentials. When opening a new app, do NOT automatically agree or allow it to access anything on the device which is not required for the app’s original purpose.
- Take advantage of the multi-factor authentication option for accounts when offered. Multi-factor authentication requires more than just a password to access an account. A company may also ask for the street you grew up on, or to provide a code texted to your cell phone.
- Only use USB drives you purchased yourself and that you’ve password protected. USB drives can contain malware and, if lost without a password, the information contained is readily available to whoever picks it up.
- Use the same password for all your accounts. Use strong, unique passwords longer than eight characters and containing upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t include any names you’ve posted on social media, or words found in the dictionary – this is a time to think cre-8-IV-lee!
- Allow your apps or browsers to save account passwords. If your passcode is cracked, you want to minimize access to your accounts. Use a password app with its own strong passcode to store your passwords if you have a problem remembering them. Don’t keep a written list of passwords with the device.
- Open email attachments unless you are expecting them. This applies to both mobile devices and home workstations. Attachments can contain malware and may appear to be from family, friends, or coworkers. Perform a Google search on “spoofing” for more information.
- Use public Wi-Fi – paid or free – to access secured accounts like online banking or shopping sites unless using an encrypted connection. Encryption usually requires additional software like VPN or Cisco AnyConnect. Use a cellular data connection if you must acccess your account.
- Click a link in an email without verifying it is a legitimate site. Hover your mouse over the link and check the URL for alternate spellings like “anazom.com” and never supply credentials to a site you clicked on from an email. To ensure the URL isn’t fake, browse to the site manually instead. Perform a Google search on “phishing” for more information.
- Email personal or financial information unless the email is secured. It is Farm Credit Illinois’ policy to always use secure email for confidential information. While this may seem like too much trouble, the value of protecting yourself from identity theft far outweighs the slight inconvenience.