4 Tips to Keep Your Online Personal Information Safe

Modern society has become increasingly digital in nature, and through our online bank accounts, email, social media and countless apps, we place ourselves and our personal information in a vulnerable position. Unfortunately, bad actors all over the world understand our vulnerability and are constantly trying to take advantage of the situation. While we cannot eliminate the risk entirely, through the strategies and action items listed below, we can protect ourselves and reduce our exposure to risk. Your personal information belongs to you. Let’s keep it that way.

Step 1: Passwords

Every website, app and account you use starts with a login and a password. The password is the first and most important step of your online identity. Beyond avoiding the classic mistakes like using “password” or “123456” as our passwords, we can do much more online to protect ourselves. Try to use unique passwords for each website and include a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using a piece of paper or online file to store your passwords, which can be easily stolen by criminals.

Instead, I recommend using a password manager to generate and remember different, complex passwords for every account.1 Whether online on your computer or through an app on your phone or tablet, password managers can create complex passwords for you and store these passwords and logins across your accounts. Often needing a password or biometric scan to log into, password managers act as a secure gatekeeper for all your passwords.

Using two-step (multi-factor) authentication is another way you can protect your passwords. Many banks and websites now require two-step authentication. After first logging in with your password, you are then sent an email, text message or push notification to your cell phone to confirm your identity. This adds another layer of security that is difficult for hackers to breach.

Step 2: Be vigilant

Unfortunately, using safe and secure passwords, a password manager and two-step authentication are not always enough to protect your identity online. We must also be constantly vigilant of our personal information, using a combination of tools and safe practices to do so. Start by checking your accounts often for unusual behavior, and sign up to receive regular updates on movements/transactions in your bank and brokerage accounts.

If you need to print anything or receive something sensitive in the mail, store those documents in a safe place until they are no longer needed, and then shred them. Another way to stay vigilant is to sign up for free credit reports every year from each of the three major consumer reporting companies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion2 (required by federal law)—by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Federal law gives you the right to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus.3 You may request to receive all three reports at once, or cycle through them, requesting a free credit report from a different company every four months. To supplement your free credit reports, you can sign up for a credit monitoring service. You’ll receive alerts when someone checks your credit history, when you (or someone else) takes out a new line of credit, or whenever your credit limit changes. Most likely you will only receive an alert when you change something related to your credit (a good thing), but if someone does open an unauthorized line of credit, for example, you’ll be alerted immediately.

Step 3: Protect yourself

Posting about yourself online puts your personal information at risk, so be careful what intimate details you share online about your life. Tidbits like your birthday, anniversary, home town or travel details belong to you and, if you choose to share, with your connections online. Know that personal information can allow bad actors to more easily steal your identity or money. Be careful with whom you share your Social Security number; organizations that do need your Social Security number won’t call, email or text you to ask for it.4

Make sure your privacy settings are up to date so you’re only sharing that information with those who need to see it. For your personal information that you’d like to stay completely private, avoid using free public Wi-Fi. Most of the time, free public Wi-Fi is unsecured and easily hackable, allowing others using the same network to also access your activity.5 Accessing personal information like your bank account is best done from the safety of your own home, not in the airport surrounded by strangers.

Step 4 – Protect your devices

Okay, so you’ve created secure passwords, used the proper tools to stay vigilant online and protected your personal information. Now what? The last step we’ll discuss is additional protection for the devices that hold your information. Install reputable antivirus and anti-spyware software, and make sure your firewall is turned on.6 The antivirus software will run in the background of your device, constantly checking for malware and viruses. The anti-spyware software prevents unwanted spyware programs from being installed, and removes unauthorized installations if necessary. The firewall will monitor traffic on your network. All three programs are important to have and should give you some peace of mind as they run in the background of your device, constantly protecting you and your information. If you own a business, purchasing cybersecurity insurance will help protect your business from liability regarding a data breach of your customers’ personal information.7 Clearing your browsing history and cache on a regular basis also helps protect your devices by shielding your personal information from being used against you, and from advertisers tracking your every move around the internet.

In summary, to help protect your information online, start with strong and complex passwords, use two-step authentication whenever possible, and use a password manager to secure them. Next, be vigilant with your information by constantly monitoring your accounts, signing up for free credit monitoring and annual free credit reports, and shredding any paper documents you no longer need. Be careful with what you post about yourself online and don’t use free public Wi-Fi to do banking or other financially (or personally) sensitive activities. Protect your devices by installing antivirus software, firewalls and anti-spyware. Lastly, routinely clear your cache and browsing history, and take out a cybersecurity insurance policy if you run a business. By following the steps outlined in this article, we believe you can drastically improve the chances that your personal information online safely stays where it should belong.


1 https://www.nytimes.com/guides/privacy-project/how-to-protect-your-digital-privacy
2 https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/how-do-i-get-a-copy-of-my-credit-reports-en-5/
3 https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/free-credit-reports
4 https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/what-know-about-identity-theft
5 https://www.chubb.com/us-en/individuals-families/resources/6-ways-to-protect-your-personal-information-online.html
6 https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesfinancecouncil/2020/04/27/13-tips-to-help-protect-your-online-financial-information/?sh=ee057e914d63
7 https://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/small-businesses/cybersecurity/cyber-insurance


Zack Morse

Zack Morse

Associate Wealth Advisor

Zack Morse is an Associate Wealth Advisor at Corient. After growing up in Seattle, he received his B.A. from The Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University where he double majored in International Affairs and Political Science. Zack stayed in Washington, D.C. after graduation and began his career with a focus on internal staff development work. After moving to the tri-state area, Zack worked for an insurance agency in New York City and with clients on their life and disability insurance needs. Zack is responsible for analyzing a client's financial picture, preparing recommendations, and assisting the Wealth Advisors in developing strategies that help clients in reaching their goals. Zack holds the Series 65 license, and passed the July 2022 CFP Exam.


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Advisory services are offered through Corient Private Wealth LLC and its affiliates, each being a registered investment adviser (“RIA”) regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).  The advisory services are only offered in jurisdictions where the RIA is appropriately registered.  The use of the term “registered” does not imply any particular level of skill or training and does not imply any approval by the SEC. For a complete discussion of the scope of advisory services offered, fees, and other disclosures, please review the RIA’s Disclosure Brochure (Form ADV Part 2A) and Form CRS, available upon request from the RIA and online at https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/. We also encourage you to review the RIA’s Privacy Policy and Code of Ethics, which are available upon request.

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