People have made it clear. They’re feeling more exposed to online threats and want stronger protection.
Our 2022 Trends Study puts figures to these feelings, saying that they believe the risks to their online privacy have increased over the past year. Moreover, 42% believe the risks to their personal and financial information have increased as well.
These findings come as more consumers shift their daily lives online, with greater use of internet banking, more investment in virtual assets, and a proliferation of online activities due to COVID-19. A lot more sensitive personal information is being stored and shared on the web, which is putting increased pressure on passwords and security measures.
As more sensitive personal information is being stored and shared on the web, people are showing a strong preference for increased security overall. For example, when asked to choose between connecting with others from anywhere to always being fully protected, the response was overwhelming in favor of strong protection (63%) over ease of connection (16%). The same sentiment extended to the workplace, where “work meetings that are guaranteed seamless” trailed significantly at 14% versus “meetings that are guaranteed secure” at (62%).
Curious as to what steps you can take to be safer online? A few tools along with a few good habits can go a long way toward keeping your privacy and identity secure.
1. Install and use online protection software: By protecting your devices, you protect what’s on them, like your personal information. Comprehensive online protection software can protect your identity in several ways, like steering you clear of malicious downloads and links, protecting your email from phishing attacks, and providing you with a digital shredder that can permanently remove sensitive documents from your computer (simply deleting them won’t do that alone).
2. Use a VPN: A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, a service that protects your data and privacy online. It creates an encrypted tunnel to keep you anonymous by masking your IP address while connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is a great way to shield your information from crooks and snoops while you’re banking, shopping, or handling any kind of sensitive information online.
3. Improve your passwords and use multi-factor authentication (MFA): Strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts, updated regularly, offer a strong line of defense against attackers. While this may require a bit of effort, a password manager can do the work for you by securely creating and storing strong, unique passwords for you. Comprehensive online protection software will include a password manager as one of its many features. Additionally, MFA adds yet another layer of security by double-checking your identity beyond your username and password, usually with a text or email. If any of your accounts offer MFA, consider using it.
4. Monitor your accounts: Give your statements a close look each time they come around. While many companies and institutions have fraud detection mechanisms in place, they don’t always catch every instance of fraud. Look out for strange purchases or charges and follow up with your bank or credit card company if you suspect fraud. Even the smallest charge could be a sign that something shady is afoot.
5. Check your credit report: This is a powerful tool for spotting identity theft. And in many cases, it’s free to do so. In the U.S., the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the major credit agencies to provide you with a free credit check at least once every 12 months. Canada provides this service, and the UK has options to receive free reports as well, along with several other nations. It’s a great idea to check your credit report, even if you don’t suspect a problem.
6. Consider using identity protection: In addition to checking your own credit report, an identity protection service provides yet deeper monitoring of your personal information. Identity protection such as ours monitors up to 60 different pieces of vital personal information and notifies you of potential misuse—up to ten months sooner than similar services. In addition to this around-the-clock monitoring, it also provides up to $1 million in coverage for lawyer fees, travel expenses, lost wages, and more.