Pick Your Poison

– by Matthew Beardwood, CFP®, Director of Wealth Management

Pick your poison by time by the year, day, or second. Did you know that this year 1 million new computer virus infections have been launched, or that 700 new phishing campaigns have been created per day, or that new malware is created every 4 seconds?

At Westover, we are dedicated not only to protecting our clients’ data and confidential information but also to educating our clients on ways to minimize their risk of cyber theft.

For those clients and guests who attended Lawrence Husick’s recent Westover Luncheon Series presentation, it was a sobering reminder of the existential threat that exists when bad actors attempt to acquire personal information, including everything from creating spam accounts, misusing phone numbers and email addresses to apply for credit, and to transferring money illegally. Mr. Husick is an intellectual property attorney, scholar (Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute), co-director of its Center for the Study of Terrorism and cyber technology consultant.

Westover Capital Advisors - Data SecurityFor those of you who were unable to join us, I invite you to watch his full thirty-minute presentation on our website (HERE). And for summary coverage of our event, see the report on Town Square Delaware, (HERE).

In addition, and as a public service, we list below some proactive, practical steps you can take to protect your personal information while online:

1. Use unique passwords: One of the simplest ways to keep your personal information secure is by varying passwords. Well over half of hacking-related breaches leverage stolen credentials. Varying your passwords will help make it tougher for cybercriminals to use credentials stolen from one site to access your data on another.

2. Vary your usernames: This principle is the same as with passwords. Using different logins, especially for financial apps, can provide an added layer of protection. Avoid using your primary email address as your username whenever possible.

3. Verify your identity: Use two-step verification to help protect your personal data online. This is one of the most secure ways to log in to your app or device. As the name suggests, “two-step verification” requires two steps to log into an account. For example, an app may require you to provide your password in combination with your thumbprint or the entry of a passcode sent via text to your smartphone. If you do nothing else, this is super easy and very secure.

Use two-step verification to help protect your personal data online. This is one of the most secure ways to log in to your app or device.

4. Use private internet connections or a personal virtual private service: Before opening a financial app or making a purchase online, find a private location so “strangers” cannot see your screen, and make sure you’re connected to a private, secure Wi-Fi access point. Several VPNs that are highly rated are ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost. Avoid public Wi-Fi at all costs.

5. Keep personal information up to date: Update your contact information and enable alerts on all your financial apps to ensure you receive timely notice of suspicious account activity, allowing you to react quickly to unauthorized access.

6. Consider the use of a Password Vault Manager. LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password are three, and there are others. Mr. Husick recommended the latter. They will assist you in generating and retrieving complex passwords, will store such passwords in an encrypted database or will calculate them for you on demand.

Implementing simple safety measures will help secure your financial information and better protect your identify, assets and your legacy. As always, we are here to answer your questions and help in any way.