How do you keep your money safe while you're online?
Our lives and technology - they're getting more and more interconnected. And this includes our financial lives, too. So, I have a few tips for you on how to keep your money safe while you're browsing around the internet.
Now one of the first things that you should do when trying to protect your online financial accounts is to use a strong and unique password. A strong password uses a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters. You got to throw in some numbers or special characters like periods, commas and dollar signs too.
It's also important to avoid using any guessable information like your name or birthday. Please don't do that. They can find that on Facebook or just Google very, very easily. When it comes to making sure that your password is unique, I'm sure we all have that family member or friend that uses the same password over and over again for every website that they visit. And this is a horrible idea for many different reasons, but the biggest one is that there have been a lot of data breaches over the past few years, I'm sure we've all gotten that email or some letter about a class-action law suit and, oftentimes, in these breaches’ usernames and passwords are stolen in these attacks.
So, if your information is stolen, it's almost guaranteed that they're going to go and just try those username and passwords on every website that they can possibly find. So, if you use that same password over and over again, you might be out of luck because they could just plug it into a random website and get access to your account.
But by creating a unique password on each and every website, a data breach or, maybe like a compromised password, means that you independently change just one password versus dozens, or even hundreds of different logins that you might have. And creating hundreds of unique passwords can understandably leave you feeling overwhelmed, because you're like, 'How could I possibly remember, you know, 100 different passwords for 100 different websites?'
So, for me, when I'm in this situation, I like to use something called a password manager or a password vault. There are services out there like Bitwarden or 1Password that allow you to easily create these really strong unique passwords, while also saving them in the database that you can easily access anytime you need them.
Let's talk about two-factor authentication. In the first tip we covered, I talked about how passwords can be stolen, which is obviously a bad thing. You don't want that to happen. But you can add an extra layer of inconvenience to slow down any potential hacker out there trying to get into your accounts.
A password is what you would consider like your first layer of authenticating your identity on many websites. Though, you can add a second layer by enabling something called two-factor authentication. And this will require an additional code to be entered in after you put in your password, or sometimes before you put in your password. And this could be like a multi-digit code that is emailed or texted to you or randomly-generated code that's created in an app like Google Authenticator or Microsoft authenticator.
Using authenticator apps is the more secure choice because there are ways for them to get around and get access to your phone number. So, getting something from an app that's on your device does give you a little extra layer of security, but really using either of these options provides more safety than just using a password alone. The point is to make getting into your accounts as inconvenient as possible. We don't want anyone to have easy access to just walk into your bank account, to your investment account, and mess things up for you.
My final tip is for those of you who like to be out and about. Maybe you're someone who likes to take your laptop to the coffee shop. Or, you know, you're just out all the time, but your cell phone has horrible reception. If you're someone who is likely to hop on just a random Wi-Fi network wherever you might be, I want you to be careful because you got to be really cautious with what websites you visit while you're on someone else's network.
Because I make it a practice, and I never access my financial accounts when I'm on an unsecured network. Like an unfamiliar network, one I've never been on before. It's not my personal home network, so I know it's safe. Because unless you for sure know who else could potentially be connected to that network with you, you have to be very cautious.
You know, places like libraries and coffee shops are really great places to access the internet for free, but you are opening up your browsing traffic to anyone else who's out there looking for the next victim.
My advice is to wait to check sensitive things like your bank account once you're connected to either a trusted Wi-Fi network or you just disconnect from Wi-Fi altogether and use your mobile network, even if it is a little bit slower. Because it's better to maybe have to wait like a few extra seconds for a website to load, then it risks basically exposing all of your personal data to a complete stranger.