Business & Real Estate

How to make yourself safer online

We have allowed for-profit technology corporations access to all our personal data in exchange for some “free services” – data these firms sell to advertisers for massive profits. With our lives online whether we like it or not, taking steps to ensure security grows more important.

The usual response is: “But I have nothing to hide.” Sure. So why don’t we just leave our cars and homes unlocked, maybe even remove the doors and windows to our homes? I don’t think so.

Those of us who work in the financial services industry, as well as the tech-savvy among us, are increasingly careful. When a client wants me to wire money from his or her account, I call and make sure that his or her email has not been hijacked, in addition to other checks and balances.

Safety tips

Following are a few tips that can ensure your safety and protect privacy online.

• Freeze your credit. The primary agencies such as Equifax, Experian and Transunion allow you to freeze or unfreeze your credit. Freezing your credit prevents someone else from opening a new line of credit in your name. (See my Oct. 17, 2017, column for details.)

• Use encryption and firewalls, and back up your data. If you are a Mac user, the privacy setting allows you to easily turn on file vault (disk encryption) and firewall functions.

• Use longer and difficult-to-crack passwords. Write passwords down somewhere where you can find them and keep them safe in your home or office.

• Guard your cellphone number carefully. Do not share your cellphone number on a random website or on social media.

• Use a virtual private network. A VPN is like a secure tunnel where your data can travel. If you are using Wi-Fi or another network that you are not sure of, use a VPN. There are many available at a reasonable cost for both your computer and phone.

• Don’t collect apps like baseball cards. Delete apps you don’t use regularly. Many apps are known to collect user data.

• Be wary of social media. Share your excitement about your Europe trip after you return home. No need to alert the bad guys that you are out of the country and your house is empty.

• Update often. While software updates can be annoying, they sometimes contain crucial security updates and patches. Don’t ignore them.

• Install an antivirus program. There are many choices: McAfee, Norton, Sophos, Malwarebytes, among others.

• Get Foxy. No, I don’t mean enhance your good looks, but look at an independent browser such as Firefox. Safari and Chrome are owned by massive, for profit corporations. Enough said.

• Search for other search engines. We have choices. Search engines such as Startpage, DuckDuckGo and others are robust and claim to not save user search data.

This article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered financial, tax, legal or technology advice.

Arvind Ven is an independent financial adviser and founder/CEO of the Capital V Group. He is a registered representative with, and offers securities through, LPL Financial as well as being a member of FINRA & SIPC. For more information, call (408) 725 7122 or visit capitalvgroup.com.

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