Financial Tip of the Week from the Iowa Bankers Association:
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a national public awareness campaign to encourage everyone to protect their computers and personal information. In our increasingly networked world, mobile devices of all shapes and sizes—in addition to traditional laptop and desktop computers—connect us to the Internet almost anywhere anytime. This makes us all vulnerable to the possibility of identity theft – and makes protecting our personal information more important than ever.
To help protect your personal information, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Cyber Security Alliance suggest taking the following steps:
1. Stay up-to-date. Use a suite of automatically updating security tools that includes anti-spyware, firewall and anti-virus software. New threats are discovered every day, and keeping your operating system, web browser and other software current and set to automatically update is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from an attack.
2. Use strong passwords and authentication technology. Keep your passwords in a secure place. Don't share your passwords on the Internet, over e-mail or on the phone. Remember, your Internet Service Provider (ISP), bank or other service providers will never ask for your password. Use complex passwords that have at least eight characters and include letters, numerals and symbols, and change them periodically.
3. Think before you speak. You don't have to give personal information to everyone who asks. If you're asked to provide personal information online or offline, you have the right to ask why it's needed and how it's going to be used. The more sensitive the data, such as your Social Security Number, the more careful you should be.
4. Don't open unsolicited e-mail messages. E-mail scams such as phishing are among the most common schemes criminals use to commit identity theft. Use e-mail filters to block these e-mails and be leery of any messages that ask you to provide personal information, even if they appear to come from a bank or company you've done business with.
5. Back up key files. If you have important files stored on your computer, copy them onto a removable disc and store in a safe place. Turn off your computer when you're not using it.
6. Surf the Internet carefully. Disreputable websites can be loaded with spyware and viruses intended to crash your computer and steal personal information.
8. Be mobile safe. Remember, your mobile device may be connected to the Internet, so employ the same online safety behaviors when "surfing" on a mobile device.
9. Protect children. Talk to your kids about good online safety and security habits, including protecting their personal information and their reputation. Know what websites your children are visiting, and check their social network activity regularly.
10. Search your name. Go to your favorite search engine and search for your name and other family members to see what is on the Web about you. Take remedial steps when needed.
When life is busy, it's easy to let some of these precautions fall by the wayside. But be sure to carve out some time this month to take these steps. After all, your identity is your most valuable possession—and one of the hardest to get back if it's stolen.
These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA), representing banks and thrifts in the state. For more information, go to www.iowabankers.com.