Cases of identity theft have been on the rise in recent years, and with so many people now working remotely, it's more important than ever to safeguard your personal data. When someone steals your data, they can easily take out credit cards in your name, file tax refunds in your name, drain your bank accounts, open utility accounts, use your name in crime, and even use your medical insurance to get treatment.
Before you start getting calls on debts you know nothing about, or the police start showing up on your doorstep with arrest warrants, take precautions to protect your personal data. Here are five tips you can implement to ensure that your data stays secure.
1. Use strong passwords
It goes without saying that anyone can access a device that has no password. You probably know that if you’re working remotely you need to ensure that all your devices are protected by a password in case you lose them. You should, however, understand that not just any password can protect your devices. If you use a simple, easy-to-guess password, your devices still remain vulnerable. Create a strong password that’s long enough and includes upper and lower cases, numbers and symbols. Avoid using your personal information such as your name and birth date in your passwords.
2. Update your devices
Device manufacturers keep releasing software updates. You probably have encountered those pop-ups alerting you that your computer, tablet, or mobile phone needs to be updated. Even though you’re working remotely and don’t have an IT professional to guide you, you’ll need to perform updates on your own. While it’s easy to ignore and check the ‘Remind me later’ button, you should remember that you’re compromising the security of your devices. The manufacturers might have noticed a security hole in the software and implemented enhanced measures to keep your devices secure. These security holes are what hackers use to invade your device and steal your data. At any given time, ensure that you are using the latest version of the software in all your devices.
3. Use a VPN
While working remotely, we tend to open our laptops everywhere, at local cafés, libraries, or airports. However, these Wi-Fi sources lack data encryption. Anyone browsing in the locality can easily eavesdrop on what you’re doing and capture any data that you share over the internet, including passwords, social security numbers, and bank details. That’s why it’s important to take precautions whenever you’re using public Wi-Fi. For starters, ensure that you use a VPN when connecting to the internet. A VPN will encrypt any data that you send over the web.
That being said, your VPN provider remains with your browsing history. You can never be too sure what someone does with that information. That’s why it’s wise to ensure that you’re using a trusted VPN such as NordVPN or Bitdefender, both available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, and has extensions for Chrome and Firefox. NordVPN guarantees faster connection speeds and security over six devices simultaneously.
4. Don’t share personal data over the phone
People have reported cases where they received a call from others posing as relatives, the government, service providers, or even charity organizations, and then they willingly divulged their personal data only for the worst to happen afterward. This is why it’s important to refrain from giving out your personal information to anyone over the phone, regardless if it’s a colleague from work or how genuine the person sounds. If someone gives you a name of where they’re calling from, it’s important that you follow up with those organizations to establish if they’re legit.
5. Stay secure offline
So much has been said on securing your data online. However, malicious people could well be just around you. Even as you protect yourself online, don’t forget to do so offline. Ensure that your personal documents are locked up in a safe. Make a habit of carrying minimal documents whenever you leave the house or work. Carry only what you’ll need in your daily transactions. If you find yourself in a place where you’re asked to fill out your personal information, go a step further to enquire why it’s needed and where it will be used.
A final note
Working remotely comes with advantages as well as challenges. Most remote workers don’t view personal data security with the weight it deserves; it’s easy to ignore the presence of identity theft until it happens to you or someone close to you. To be sure, data theft is an ordeal you don’t want to deal with. So make sure to follow the above measures to keep your data secure.
Leah Collins is a security engineer with eight years experience and a freelance writer who writes about technology and data security.
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