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6 simple steps you can take to protect your personal information

Keeping your personal information safe online might seem overwhelming…you might even think it impossible. While there are dozens of ways to protect yourself online, we wanted to give you a few, easily implementable solutions: 

1. Use strong, unique passwords

Using the same password across multiple accounts puts you at a higher risk of a security breach. We realize, though, that using passwords like 252jkajJI&!@% for one account and 88YUWTgzpn%%$#, though more secure, are nearly impossible to remember. We suggest using password managers like Keeper or 1password, which allow you to store online login credentials, files, and other highly sensitive information in an encrypted, digital web vault. 

We recommend doing your own research before choosing a password manager that is right for you and your family. 

Image of Computer with Password Notification
Courtesy of Volodymyr Kondriianenko

2. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for data-sensitive platforms

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) can help protect your account from being accessed by unauthorized or nefarious individuals. 2FA requires you to enter an additional code when you sign into those specific accounts. Having 2FA is best suited for platforms you use to store a lot of valuable, personal information - like your bank account, medical institution, or even email. 

It is important that we highlight that if you lose your phone, you lose access to your 2FA app and in turn, lose access to your accounts. So - be sure to create backup access codes. These backup codes can be saved in your password manager, though!

Authy, Duo Mobile, Microsoft Authenticator, and Authenticator by Google are highly trusted two-factor authenticators. That being said, we still recommend that you conduct your own research before selecting a 2FA that you think is right for you. 

Two-factor authenticator with Microsoft

3. Share less information about yourself online and on social media

We believe the saying that “less is more” could not be more useful when it comes to what you share about yourself online. The more personal data you share with others, the more likely that that information can be used to steal your identity and commit fraud. 

Woman holding phone making post on Instagram

4. Only go to sites that are secure (https:// URLs)

HTTPS uses a system that encrypts (conceals) communications so that hackers can’t steal data (like your credit card information when making a purchase online). HTTPS is also a way for the website to confirm its identity/who it claims so it is harder for impersonators to create fake websites. HTTPS was created to stop cyber attacks so that your personal information is kept safe. Another way that websites can be seen as more trustworthy is if they include a visible privacy policy. 

Website tabs for a secure (https) website

5. Use free Wi-Fi with caution

Most free or public Wi-Fi networks usually do not have strong security measurements in place - meaning that other people on the same network can easily access your online activity. When making any purchases with your credit card or logging in with a password, it's better and safer to wait until you get home or to a password-protected network. 

Picture of wall painting that says Free Wi-Fi.

6. Turn off location-based apps

Most apps use location settings so that they know where you are. Companies use your location settings to create geofencing or geo-targeting, which uses your location data in an attempt to show you more targeted or relevant ads based on where you have been. While most location-based apps do this for business purposes, it simultaneously puts you at risk as it provides information about how you spend your time. This means that it’s easier for people to know where you are (like at your local coffee shop) and where you are not (like at home). 

You can turn off location-based apps in your Android by:

  1. Open your Settings by tapping on the gear icon on your home screen or app drawer.
  2. Tap on the Location settings tab.
  3. Switch the toggle to Off to disable location services.

You can turn off location-based apps on your iPhone by:

  1. Open your Settings by tapping on the gear icon on your home screen or app drawer.
  2. Tap on the Privacy settings tab
  3. Tap on the Location Services tab
  4. Toggle Never, Ask Next Time Or When I Share, or While Using the App for each app. You can also toggle Precise location to Off for apps so that apps can only determine your approximate location.