Around-the-world connectivity. Instant information sharing. Holiday gifts that can be purchased and shipped with only a few clicks. More cat videos than you could ever watch. The internet has given us many amazing things. Unfortunately, the internet also comes with its share of dangers. Chief amongst them is the threat of online identity theft. Identity theft occurs when an unscrupulous individual steals your personal and financial information, typically to use it for their own gain.
As more and more of our lives and daily transactions happen online, cyber security should be a concern for not just businesses but for all individuals. Luckily, you don’t have to be an information technology expert to reduce your risk of identity theft online. (However, those with an information technology or information systems degree who know how to secure business information and systems are in high demand!)
Below are some of the most effective steps you can take to prevent identity theft.
- Recognize and avoid malicious emails
Malicious emails may look like they’re from a bank, government agency, or other business. These emails might inform of you of an urgent problem and encourage you to immediately call a number or click a link, where you’ll be asked for personal, financial, or login information. Never click on a link unless you are absolutely sure the email is authentic. Check the from address carefully for misspellings and to make sure it’s from a company email address.
If you’re suspicious, get the company’s contact info from any paper documents you have or by looking them up online. Contact them directly using that information rather than the details provided in the email.
- Pay attention to URLs
Before logging into or entering any sensitive information in a form online, check the security of the website. It should say “https” at the beginning and show a lock icon before the URL. Also, be sure that you are on a legitimate website. Hackers or cyber criminals may create sites that look nearly identical to the real site but have minor differences in the URL spelling. They may also use a different domain than the actual website, such as using .net when it should be .com or. gov.
- Update your software regularly
Keep your software up-to-date on all devices from which you access the internet—including your smartphone, tablet, and computer. Doing so will decrease the likelihood that hackers will be able to access your files and information by finding and take advantage of vulnerabilities in outdated software. This include operating systems, internet browsers, email clients, and even Microsoft products like Word and Excel.
- Fortify your passwords
Strong passwords are one of the best ways to secure your sensitive information. One way to create strong passwords is to use a sentence or phrase that is at least 12 characters long (including both capital and lowercase letters). For your most important accounts, turn on multi-factor authentication so that you get a text message or email to confirm your identity when logging in.
Each account should have a unique password. Otherwise, someone only has to steal one password to access all of your information. Of course, managing multiple passwords can be difficult and overwhelming. A password manager can help. Password managers store all of your passwords for you and only require you to remember the password that allows you to access your password manager.
- Shop smart
Before shopping on a new website, research that site to make sure it has good reviews from other consumers so that you know it can be trusted. Avoid submitting financial information or checking your bank account over public WiFi. Likewise, it’s best to use a personal computer rather than a public one for shopping and banking, since you don’t know what computers might be infected with malware.
When shopping online, paying by credit card is a safe option because you can work with your credit card company to get your money back if your order isn’t delivered or you’re given the wrong items. PayPal is another option that can offer you protection. As always, before entering your information, make sure the website URL includes https so that you know you’re on a secure site.
Considering a career in information systems and technology?
Every business has information they need to collect, organize, access, share, and protect. To do so, they rely on information technology and systems that must be designed and managed by professionals in the field. Does working in this ever-evolving and increasingly critical field sounds exciting to you?
South University can help you prepare with our Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and Master of Science in Information Systems degree programs. Learn more today about how these programs can equip you for in-demand careers in technology and business.