How can I protect my information online?

Published on: October 10th, 2022

In today’s digital world, new threats seem to emerge daily. While it may not be possible to be across every new virus and scam or understand how they work in detail, there are a few basic steps everyone can take to protect their information online.

#1 Use multi-factor authentication on all accounts

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires a secondary form of verification before you can access an account. Put simply, you enter your user name and password, and the system sends you a unique, one-time code via email, text, phone call or a specific application on your mobile. You cannot access the account without both pieces of the puzzle.

It may take an extra few minutes, but it can save you considerable heartache and worry. If someone is trying to access your account, you’ll know immediately because you’ll receive the code and can take action and change your password.

#2 Choose passwords wisely

Too many of us use the same or easy-to-guess passwords on our online accounts. Passwords should be unique for each account and hard to guess.

When setting passwords, as a minimum, it’s good practice to:

  • Create a new password for each account
  • Avoid consecutive numbers
  • Avoid using information that is available on your social media, such as your pet’s name, your children’s names or birthdays
  • Use capitalisation somewhere other than the first letter
  • Use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols

If you are having trouble remembering such a wide range of passwords, you may also consider a password tool that creates strong, unique passwords for every account but requires you to remember only one.

#3 Don’t send sensitive information via email

With a constant stream of email scams these days, it’s clear that email isn’t the best way to send information that could be useful to hackers, such as credit card numbers or identity documents.

While encryption services can protect your information in transit, it’s important to note that the recipient must also have equivalent protections, or your information may be at risk on delivery.

Look for alternative ways to share this information. Your partners and providers should be offering secure ways to transmit sensitive data, for example, a secure client portal such as Apt’s.

#4 Close old or unused email accounts

Old email addresses are the perfect target for hackers because many of us don’t have access to the backup email addresses or mobile numbers attached to those accounts anymore. Passwords can easily be changed. You, as the owner, may never know.

Once hacked, these old or unused accounts can be veritable treasure troves, particularly as sending sensitive information by email was far more common in the past. From application forms with all your personal information to credit card numbers and scanned identity documents, it may all be sitting in your sent items.

#5 Be careful what you share on social media 

Social media is a great way to share with family and friends, but it can be an equally useful vehicle for hackers too. A couple of critical areas to consider include:

  • Checking your privacy settings and making sure you are controlling who can see your information
  • Removing your birth date, or, at the very least, birth year
  • Understanding how information is shared when you comment on a third-party page or friend’s profile. It often depends on their privacy settings – not yours
  • Reconsidering whether you participate in quizzes and games that ask you for information such as a pet’s name, first suburb, hobbies, etc. These are often very similar to security questions, so you could be giving away far more than you intended
  • Ignoring connection requests from strangers or acquaintances. Keep your friend list to close friends and family

#6 Avoid using free or unsecured Wi-Fi networks 

Free or unsecured networks that don’t have a login and password may be accessed by third parties who can then intercept any information you share. And the network owner may be none the wiser, so it’s irrelevant if you trust them or not.

#7 Don’t enter information on an unsecured site

You can tell if a site is secure because, in the address bar, you’ll see a padlock symbol and the prefix ‘https’ (note the ‘s’ for secure). If you can’t see this, consider providing the information another way.

#8 Proceed with caution when communicating online

When communicating online through channels like WhatsApp or Messenger, it’s important to remember that you don’t really know who you are talking to. If it’s a stranger or acquaintance, it’s probably better not to enter the conversation in the first place.

Even if it appears to be someone you know, don’t click on any links or provide any information about yourself. If they ask something out of character, consider it a red flag, and contact the person via other contact details you have for them, such as email or phone.

#9 If it seems suspicious, speak to a trusted adviser before taking action 

From romance scams and malware to phishing emails and texts, today’s scams are more sophisticated and numerous than ever before. You can check out our blog on protecting yourself from scams here.

Apt Wealth Partners takes your online safety, privacy and data protection seriously. Your adviser is there to support you if you think you may be at risk or have questions about how to better protect yourself. Remember, when it comes to online safety, there are no silly questions – it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

General Advice warning

The information provided in this blog does not constitute financial product advice. The information is of a general nature only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be used, relied upon, or treated as a substitute for specific professional advice. Apt Wealth Partners (AFSL and ACL 436121 ABN 49 159 583 847) and Apt Wealth Home Loans (powered by Smartline ACL 385325) recommends that you obtain professional advice before making any decision in relation to your particular requirements or circumstances.