By Elliot Mark, Senior Copywriter at Ecommerce Platforms.
Money matters. It's never been a controversial truism, but it's been brought into sharper light over the course of the last year as businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have seen their resources run dry. Their employees have been furloughed or even fired outright, leading them to face unemployment in a time of excess worker supply and limited travel options.
It's no wonder that massive emphasis has been placed on the provision of stimulus packages. Economies everywhere are flagging, and countless people are struggling just to pay their monthly bills in a timely fashion. So what does this mean for you? Well, it's simple enough: if you're not already doing so, you need to start taking your online financial activity seriously.
The rise of cloud computing has steadily drawn our daily activities into the online world, and that goes for retail and banking alike. It's entirely possible to go months without spending any money offline. This presents a major security concern. Your online accounts have accrued immense power, and fraudsters hunger for that power. Make a mistake and your entire financial portfolio can come crashing down. This is why businesses are investing in next-level cybersecurity.
In this post, we're going to advance some tips for changing your approach to personal online security. You needn't be a cybersecurity expert to make some big improvements: if you're ready to take a more determined stance, you're ready to make progress. Let's get started.
Semi-frequently change your passwords
When it comes to not taking things seriously, the matter of passwords is an obvious topic for discussion. We all know that we should change our passwords somewhat regularly: it's been drilled into us for years by now, with the basic advice being so clear that we can recite it with ease. Choose long passwords, avoid using single worlds, mix up the characters, etc.
The issue here isn't that you lack awareness of the issue. It's that you don't ultimately think it matters — but if at some point you discover that someone has logged into your account, you'll suddenly be keenly aware that it really does matter. So take the time to change your passwords on occasion. It doesn't take that long, and it's hugely important.
Make good use of privacy software
The reason I say privacy software as opposed to security software in general is that most security tools are now cloud-based and essentially unavoidable. Online banking services have baked-in security protocols to keep your transactions secure, and computers of all kinds have default firewalls and anti-virus protection to mitigate the risk of infection.
It isn't through clever hacks that fraudsters get results: it's through social engineering. Social engineering is all about tricking people into exposing vital login details, and it's a huge problem that's often glossed over by those who think they're too smart to ever be taken in. A sensible opening salvo in your effort to protect your accounts is leaning on privacy software.
You can conceal your identity somewhat through using a VPN, for instance (at this point it's quite inexpensive: even a free VPN offers the many benefits of hiding behind a proxy, though with some feature reductions). You can also look for tools that can help you get rid of old data that might cause problems: services like TweetDelete can help you clear out your social posts and remove a lot of content that could have helped fraudsters access your accounts.
Learn to recognize common attacks
There are certain social-engineering attacks that appear far more often than others, and understanding how they work will make it easier for you to guard against them. Take phishing, for instance, which is the process of messaging people posing as trusted institutional representatives in an effort to convince them to share their login credentials.
If you receive a message saying that your bank details have been compromised and you need to follow a link to find out what to do next, that's almost-certainly a phishing attempt. If you follow the link, it'll ask you to log into your account, and the form will save your details for the senders to use. When in doubt, contact your financial institution directly: someone there will be able to confirm the legitimacy of any messages you've ostensibly received from them.
Get smarter about sharing information
This is the social media age, and many of us have become accustomed to updating the world on almost everything we do. Upload a photo of every meal, tag your favorite vacation spot, show everyone an animation of your beloved greyhound: it's all commonplace, and it's all dangerous. Every piece of information you put out there can be turned against you somehow.
The biggest issue is the password-recovery process used for so many online systems. Because people inevitably forget their passwords, they lean on recovery processes that ask for answers to security questions: answers that can often be inferred through someone's online activity, whether through social media profiles or through personal blogs.
You can choose deliberately-misleading security answers and store the details elsewhere so your online details can't easily be exploited, but that's a tiresome way to approach things. If you stick to the regular method, you need only be fairly careful about how and when you share information: that should be good enough to keep you reasonably protected.
Elliot Mark is an ecommerce platform specialist and copywriting pro. Skilled in content and marketing, he loves to share his knowledge with like-minded ecommerce entrepreneurs. Check out his insights on Ecommerce Platforms to learn how to take your online store to the next level: @EcomPlatformsio.