Don’t get caught with your digital pants down — 5 ways to protect your data


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Keeping personal devices like computers, tablets, and phones safe from digital infiltration can be tricky. With hackers getting craftier and online scammers getting … scammier, you need to take a moment to figure out how you’re going to keep your data (and bank account!) out of the wrong hands.

David Cummings, IT systems administrator for Riverbend Companies, has five recommendations so you can have peace of mind while using your devices.

1. Backup

Cummings says the first thing any user should have is a backup system for their computers and mobile devices.

He recommends the three, two, one method. Have three copies of your data on two different media, and have one off site. Have the original, a backup on an external hard drive or thumb drive, and one stored to a cloud backup like Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive.

2. Unique passwords

If you insist on having this password, don’t commit it to paper. | Stock photo

Although many of us do it, Cummings recommends not using the same password for multiple websites.

“What most of us are doing wrong is using the same passwords over and over,” Cummings says.

LastPass is a password management service and passwords generator. It has many services including a password autofill for the various websites users put on their account. LastPass can be accessed online and users can add an extension to internet browsers to use password auto-fill options.

“When you go to a website you don’t have to remember what that password is. You use that password manager to fill in the blanks for you,” Cummings says.

3. Firewall

Cummings says to make sure your firewall option is turned on. Most computers have a firewall built into its operating system, and users just have to find the on and off settings.

“It protects you from the hackers being able to try and hack into your device,” Cummings says.

You can find firewall settings in your control panel on Windows, or in System Preferences on a Mac.

Along with this, make sure devices are receiving firmware updates and software patches.

“Developers out there are trying to secure things as they learn about vulnerabilities they’ll release firmware updates,” Cummings says. “Just make sure your Windows (and Mac) updates are happening and that you’re downloading firmware updates for all of your devices.”

4. Two-step verification

Two-step verification is a simple step to take when building defenses against hackers.

“A hacker is going to log in as you, but if you have two-step verification on, it requires not only your user name and password, but also a second authentication step where they’ll text you a code,” Cummings says. “If they don’t have your phone, they can’t get into your account.”

5. PIN or screen lock on a mobile device

This is probably the simplest way to protect a device. Make sure mobile devices are secure through a PIN, password, or biometric protection like a fingerprint or iris scan.

Cummings says people never know when a device will be stolen or compromised so it’s important to keep information protected. With access to a phone, thieves can get various sorts of confidential information through the touch of a button.

“Our lives are so intertwined with the web and all of our devices. We have so much information out there, it’s just so important to protect ourselves every way that we can with digital security,” Cummings says.