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Best Practices for Keeping Your Data Safe

How much of your information, such as your social security number, bank account details and health records, are stored online?

If you're like most of us, chances are that all your personal and sensitive data is stored somewhere in a cloud database or cloud backup. Maybe you entered your SSN and bank information on your employer's intranet. Or you might have saved your credit card information in your account at your favorite online store. And if you access your health insurance or any healthcare services online, details about your physical and mental wellbeing are stored virtually.

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Data Breaches: The Statistics

Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly commonplace for people to fall victim to a data breach. And it's all too easy for a hacker to then use that information to commit fraud or identity theft. Consider that according to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2018, there were 1,244 data breaches that together exposed 446.5 million records. In that same year, a total of 444,602 people reported that their identity had been stolen and over 1.4 million people reported instances of fraud.

How to Protect Your Data

The Federal Trade Commission advises that there are four main ways to keep your data protected: know who you share your data with, ask questions before sharing your data, store and dispose of your personal data in a secure manner and maintain proper security on your electronic devices.

In addition, keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Beware of online and email scams. Cybercriminals use all sorts of methods to try to steal your data, from fraudulent websites to phishing emails. Never click on a link or download an attachment unless you trust the source.
  • Encrypt your data. Activate the encryption option on your computer, tablet and phone. This will make your data illegible to anyone who doesn't have the key.
  • Practice good password safety. Never use the same password on more than one site and don't share your passwords with other people. In addition, make sure your passwords are at least 12 characters long, and change them once every three months.
  • Use security software: Make sure it includes a good anti-virus, firewall and malware protection. You should also regularly run anti-virus scans to ensure your devices aren't compromised.
  • Dispose of your data properly. When you dispose of your old devices, make sure criminals can't use a data recovery program on them. Run a wipe utility program that erases all of your information from the hard drive.
  • Use a VPN when you're on public Wi-Fi. A virtual private network will protect your device from being hacked while you're on public networks.
  • Beware of privacy policies on apps. It's so easy to download and install apps — but many of them collect, save and even share your personal data. That's why it's important to read all of the terms and conditions before simply hitting "I agree."
  • Review your credit reports once a year. advises requesting your credit reports once a year. Review the report for any irregularities, such as new accounts that have been opened in your name. If you notice anything amiss, freeze your credit files and contact the credit bureaus, your bank and the police about the issue.

Get Identity Theft Protection

No matter how careful you are, your data can always be compromised. That's why it's wise to consider adding identity theft protection to your insurance policy. For more information, contact an agent in your area.

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