If you are not careful, your online identity could be stolen. It can lead to an epic and excruciating experience affecting various accounts, such as your financial, healthcare, e-commerce, social media, data and much more. The loss can include usernames, passwords, credit cards, Social Security numbers, etc. For some, they can quickly resolve/restore their identity, but for others, it can take months. Who has time for that? By following these important steps, you could help save yourself a lot of headaches.
Secure Your PC and Mobile Devices
Be sure your operating systems are up-to-date and use strong passwords.
Add More Security on Your Mobile Account(s)
Don’t let what happened to Matthew Miller happen to you when he was hit with a SIM swap. Contact your U.S. mobile provider and request a SIM card password or security PIN on your account(s). Also ask if they can “flag” your account for extra security.
Never AutoSave Passwords in Your Browsers
Delete saved passwords in all of your browsers. Every one of them has the option to export saved passwords for anyone to view. Why you should never allow your web browser to save your passwords explains just how easy it to see saved passwords.
Upgrade Your Free Email Accounts
Gmail and Microsoft’s Outlook are the most popular free email accounts, but if you get hacked, you have to resort to an online form and wait for support. For 24/7 support by phone, email or online, upgrade your Gmail and Microsoft accounts. Further, with an upgraded account with either of these, you get additional storage and other perks. Compare the two:
Remove Your Phone Number from Critical Accounts with Authentication Factors
If you are a victim of SIM swapping, your phone is generally the first device that an authentication service will use to reset your password. Instead, use an authenticator app or a saved code. A hacker with a SIM swapped phone number will therefore not have access to the trusted device.
If an online service requires SMS-based authentication, you can use a Google Voice number (or an alternate SMS option) associated to an email account completely separate from your primary email.
Backup Important Data
Regardless if it’s professional or personal documents, photos, programs, music, etc., backup anything you can’t replace not once, but twice or three-times, depending on what it is. Otherwise, they could be lost forever. Tim Fisher, author of What Exactly Should I Back Up?, does a good job of outlining what to backup.
The purpose of backing up more than once is to safeguard a single point of failure. Cloud-based storage is an excellent way to prevent fire, flood, technical or human error from destroying local copies. Also, a configuration mistake or forgetting to pay the annual subscription fee on a fee-based cloud service can cause some or all of your files to disappear. It is worth noting it is also a good idea to backup files on another local drive just in case.
Make a conscious effort to practice these steps to defend your online identity. Stay alert and watch for common signs of identity theft like false information on your credit reports, missing bills or other mail, receiving new credit cards you did not apply for, credit approval denials for no reason and calls or notices about past due bills for services or products you did not purchase. Also, consider a credit freeze and think twice before using public Wi-Fi.