How to keep your data safe and secure

Do you like browsing the web? Do you use your computer or your smartphone for transactions like banking, shopping or paying bills? Are you a regular user of social media, entertainment or other apps?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s important that you understand how to keep your data safe and secure.

Every time you jump online… whether directly through an internet browser or via a third-party app, you are leaving small traces of your personal information along the way. And this is where you can become a target for outside parties to attempt to access your data.

We’ve put together a guide to some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your information.

Managing your passwords

Managing your passwords

Creating a strong password is the first step in reducing the possibility of a hacker accessing your data. Using straightforward passwords that someone could easily guess leaves you vulnerable… so steer clear of ‘password’, ‘qwerty’ or ‘123456’.

It’s also recommended that you have a different password for every online account or application you use. If you find yourself accumulating too many passwords to easily remember, you could utilise a password manager such as 1Password, LastPass or Zoho.

While it might seem like a good idea, the last thing you want to do is write a password down… because as soon as you write it on a post-it or put it in your notes app, it becomes susceptible to being found by someone else.

Review app settings

Review app settings

You might not realise it, but many mobile phone apps request access to more data than they actually require to perform their specified task.

This is a way for the app to collect information and sometimes these permissions are looking at data you might not want to share.

This can include your contacts, browsing history and even your geolocation. To revoke permissions, you can review your app data access in your phone settings. It’s worthwhile doing this regularly just to make sure you know exactly what you are sharing.

Antivirus software

Antivirus software

Most computers and other devices come with some in-built virus protection, but to be confident that your system is completely safe it is worthwhile investing in additional antivirus software.

Currently, the only device that doesn’t require extra security is an iPhone… but if you use Windows, macOS or have an Android, you should consider installing third party antivirus protection.

New malware emerges every day… so make sure you keep your software version up to date as out-dated software could have security vulnerabilities.

Backup your data

Another important step in maintaining your information’s integrity is to regularly backup your data. Should something happen to your system… whether a technical fault or a malware attack, then a backup can help you reinstall and minimise data loss.

There’s nothing worse than losing photos, documents or other personal files, so use cloud storage or an external hard drive (or both) and feel assured that your digital data is safe.

Using public Wi-Fi

Using public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi can be a great service… in shopping centres, council buildings or at the airport, but you need to be aware that some of these are not secure. If you see ‘Free Public Wi-Fi’ pop up on your phone, it might not actually exist!

Sometimes this can be an unsecured wireless network from a nearby laptop or phone and it is designed to appear legitimate in order to collect your personal data. When accessing the internet in public it’s better to use your 4G or 5G service and if you do connect to Wi-Fi, make sure it’s a known and trusted network.

Watch out for scams

Watch out for scams

Finally, always stay alert and watch out for cyber scams. We have discussed this topic before, but scammers are becoming more sophisticated, and it can be difficult to immediately identify a fake email or text message.

Never share your personal information with unknown sources and if you do think you have fallen prey to a scammer, contact the Scams and Identity Theft Helpdesk (Monday to Friday) on 1800 941 126. If you experience anything suspicious, you can also contact a First Financial team member for advice. Read more Financial Industry articles.

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