This post was co-authored by Wealth Advisor Lowell Parker, CFP® and Information Systems Manager Rodney Gonzales.
As banks become increasingly difficult for cybercriminals to hack, high net-worth families are the next logical targets. These criminals are organized, patient, and in some cases, well-funded. Cybercrime is also underreported, and while the court system is catching up with the expansion of laws and penalties for cyber-related crimes, cases remain hard to solve or even prove.
Having your personal information compromised isn’t a matter of “if,” but “when.” It’s less expensive to take preventative measures than it is to investigate and eliminate threats. It’s imperative that you take the right precautions both externally, with your vendors and service providers, as well as internally with your home computers and networked systems.
Cybersecurity and the protection of our clients’ personal data is a top priority for Merriman, and we have industry-standard measures in place to ensure your security on our end. We’d like to offer a few tips for things you can do to secure your personal cyber footprint.
Never use public Wi-Fi without encryption.
If, for instance, you connect to the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, your computer could be vulnerable to computer viruses and malware. A simple Virtual Private Network (VPN) program can help keep surfing safe when in public space. Note that hotel Wi-Fi is not an exception.
Use a password service.
Password security is one of the most important things you can do to keep your account access and personal information safe on the Internet. Currently, 65% of all passwords used today can be cracked in a matter of seconds. We use LastPass at Merriman and it’s one of the best options out there, providing enhanced password security, system-generated complex passwords, and the convenience of only having to remember one master password.
Use multi-factor authentication when possible.
The minor annoyance you might feel when having to remember that second step login information will pale in comparison to the annoyance of having your account compromised.
Set up a guest Wi-Fi network at home.
If a virus-infected computer connects to your main Wi-Fi, that Wi-Fi and all devices connected to it are at risk of being compromised. Setting up a guest login will keep those infected computers quarantined from your main systems.
Consider the impact of social media.
Facebook, Instagram and other social media are great for keeping up with friends, but they’re also a gold mine for cybercriminals looking for personal information they can use to become “you.”
Take advantage of each site’s security features, and remember those features can change, so check back often. Update your privacy settings so that only people in your friends network have the privilege of seeing your posts. Don’t expose your personal information any more than necessary and be selective about what you put on the site. Remove things like addresses and phone numbers from the exposed areas of these sites. It’s okay to keep them in the settings for security purposes, like multi-factor authentication and payment areas.
Social media sites can also be used for old-fashioned crime.
For example, if the public can see the picture you posted of your entire family on the beach in Hawaii, it’s a sure sign to criminals that you won’t be coming home anytime soon and your home may be at risk.
Invest in identity protection and credit monitoring services.
The earlier you know that your credit or identity has been compromised, the better your chances of preventing major loss. Don’t forget to add your kids to that service. One of the biggest credit crimes is stealing the identities of children.
Keep backups of your data.
If an attacker does compromise or corrupt your data, having those backups is your peace of mind.
Use industry-standard antivirus and anti-malware software.
Be sure to protect your personal computers, network, and mobile devices with up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software.
Remember you’re not the only one who can compromise your personal data.
It’s not enough to protect your network. You need to make sure hackers can’t compromise you because of less-vigilant individuals. Teenage children, personal assistants, housekeepers, etc. may provide hackers an entry point to your network. Make sure you require these individuals to practice good cyber hygiene as well.
Invest in professional services to develop a cybersecurity plan for you and your family.
For those who need more help navigating some of these items and/or want heightened levels of security and potential insurance against cybercrime, consider investing in a professional service to develop and implement a plan for your family. These professionals specialize in securing your personal data, and their costs are a fraction of the costs required to replace systems and software, recover data, and rebuild reputations after a catastrophic cyber breach.
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Lowell developed a passion for finance in high school, after some hard lessons learned. Now as a Wealth Advisor, he appreciates the opportunity to help his clients articulate, achieve, and expand on their financial and associated life goals. He particularly enjoys working with mid-career technology professionals.
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