In light of the shocking news that at least 500 million Yahoo account were compromised in 2014, and also because it’s Cyber Security Awareness Month (it’s a thing), you may be wondering what you can do to protect your accounts, your identity, and your personal information.
Don’t worry—you’re not alone. Millions of people just like you are trying to figure how they can avoid having their usernames, passwords, and credit card information plastered all over the internet.
The truth is, you can’t prevent every breach. That’s just a reality of living in 2016. And unless you’re willing to avoid the internet (and credit cards, whose Point of Sale devices are connected to networks), there’s no guarantee that your data won’t be exposed.
But what you can do is protect yourself—and your identity—as best you can. Which is exactly why we put together this guide. It’s the 6 steps you should take to help keep your identity safe.
1. Use a password manager
One of the most common mistakes people make is to use the same username and password for everything. We get it. It’s simple, it’s easy. But it’s also risky. Because once someone gets that information—through a breach like Yahoo’s, for example—they can go anywhere you go online. And that means banks. Credit cards. Medical records.
So the smart move is to have different passwords for every account. But who has time to memorize all that. Fortunately, there are tools out there that help you with that. For our money, the best is LastPass.
LastPass generates extremely tough passwords for all your logins, and then stores them so you don’t have to remember them.
All you need to do is remember the one master password (which they, for security reasons, don’t store on their servers) and you’ll have secure access to all your places.
They even have a security challenge that surveys your current passwords and shows you where you’re repeating, and which of your passwords are weak. Oh, and did we mention it’s free?
2. Enable two-step verification
Don’t know what two-step verification is? If you’ve ever tried logging into Gmail and seen this, you’ve already done it:
Two-step verification protects your data by requiring you to use a second password, usually sent to cell phone, in order to access an account. That way, even if bad guys compromise your username and password, they’d still need physical access to your cell phone to get into your account.
If you want to check and see if a site or business you work with uses two-step verification, here’s a helpful list: https://twofactorauth.org/
3. Use that antivirus software
One common way people’s login data is stolen is through keystroke logging. Keystroke logging is the recording of the keys being typed, so it can capture anything from your Facebook Messenger to you entering your credit card info on Amazon to your username and password at your bank.
Effectively, keyloggers are a form of malware that you may or may not already be running. That’s why it’s so important to have antivirus software.
And just having it isn’t quite enough. You need to keep a calendar and regularly run it—even if it’s annoying to you. After all, it’s far less annoying than canceling all your credit cards and trying to disconnect those new phone lines someone took out in your name.
For a limited time, you can get McAfee 2017 Antivirus products for 50% off.
4. Look for the green padlock
You probably already know this, but when you see a green padlock next to the URL and an https in the URL, it means the site has an active SSL certificate.
It looks like this:
There are many different types of SSL certificates, but the key thing is that all of them encrypt any data you send to the website you’re on. So if you’re logging into your local newspaper account, that data will be very difficult for people to intercept and steal. That’s why SSLs are so valuable.
And that’s also why you should never send data to a site that doesn’t have an SSL certificate. Even if it seems like you’re not sending anything too compromising, that’s the best rule you can follow to keep your identity safe online.
5. Get full-time Identity Protection
Identity Protection is like insurance—you don’t want to ever use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it. Because 14% of victims of identity theft suffer out-of-pocket losses—through things like fraudulent ATM withdrawals, restoration costs, and even legal fees—it’s important to have some kind go insurance.
That’s why every time you buy from a McAfee SECURE site, you’ll qualify for 90 days of free Identity Protection worth up to $100,000 dollars. And when those 90 days are up, you can always upgrade to Identity Protection pro for an even larger coverage and access to greater restoration services.
Pro Tip: If you want coverage that never lapses, you can get unlimited Identity Protection by signing up for Safe Browsing Pro. It’s an extension for Google Chrome that not only gives you a cool $1,000,000 in coverage for Identity Protection, but also lets you know which sites you visit might be risky, and a lot more. Check it out!
6. Protect your browsing
You probably spend a good chunk of time on your internet time on your browser, but beyond using a top-quality browser (like Chrome), have you taken any extra steps to make sure you’re safe online?
The fact is, all it takes is clicking one bad link to compromise your computer, and maybe your identity. That’s why we recommend a browser extension like McAfee SECURE Safe Browsing.
It looks like this:
It’s a free extension for Google Chrome that lets you know if the site you’re on is dangerous (the icon becomes a hazard symbol) or if it’s certified SECURE. So make sure you’re covering your bases, and check it out!
Those are our favorite ways for staying safe online. Let us know yours by contacting us on Twitter!