Do you ever wonder if someone is looking over your shoulder when you’re typing away on your computer? Maybe not literally, but that someone, somewhere, either overseas or right next door, is watching what you type or capturing your keystrokes?
It isn’t a pleasant thought is it? Hoping, praying, that the information you are entering into your computer is remaining safe, secure, and for your eyes only.
It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that your information may be unsecure even when you’re sitting in the privacy of your own home, safe at your desk or in front of your television with your laptop. But just because you don’t see your assailant, doesn’t mean he isn’t out there, lurking, waiting, hoping that you make the mistake for which he’s been waiting. There are however, things you can do to make your computer work a bit safer when it comes to the information you put out there regarding your personal finances.
Internet Security Software
Utilizing internet security software can be a great way to detect possible security issues within your computer. Good software might cost money, but I like to look at it as insurance. I have insurance on other items of value — my home, my car, me — so it makes logical sense that I should probably have it on my computer as well.
It’s often difficult to detect if unwelcome viruses are lurking within your computer until it is too late. The problem is, sometimes running a virus scan can slow down your computer as it checks files, and this frustration can at time deter its use. Of course, this could be a quite minor frustration compared to what you would feel if your financial information was compromised by way of a virus infected computer.
If you leave your computer on overnight however, this could be a great time to run your scan. With my particular security software, you can choose to have the computer shut down after the scan is complete. You might want to run a scan nightly, after you’ve visited a site or sites with which you are unfamiliar or with which you are concerned about security, or before you place any relevant information out there online for all to see. Not only can running such scans protect your financial information, but they can help protect the health of your computer and other files and software as well.
Where you choose to use your computer can make a significant difference in the overall security of your information. You never know who may be looking over your shoulder, either literally or figuratively. Ensuring that you are using trusted and secure networks can be essential to keeping your personal and financial information secure.
But it isn’t always the location or quality of the network that can help keep you safe. When you’re out at the local coffee shop or using a network at the hotel at which you’re staying, the security of your network could be just fine, however; the security of your surroundings may not. While it might be an old fashioned way to steal information, for some passers-by or criminal gawkers, catching a glimpse of your keystrokes or computer screen while your attention is elsewhere might be just as effective as hacking into the computer itself.
If you like using your computer in public places, but are concerned about your privacy, it might behoove you to look into a privacy filter for your computer. Such screens can help deflect curious glances and threatening stares intended to clip a bit of pertinent information from your computer screen, and could help you breathe a bit easier when using your computer in public places.
Your Information Online
Many of us are just too willingn to provide financial information to sites we shouldn’t. You must stop and think before you provide such details. Ask yourself why the site would want this information? Do they really need it? And what could this information possibly divulge about your finances should it fall into the wrong hands?
This ability for criminals to use this information against you is why it can be so important that you not give up personal or financial information unless you feel it is absolutely necessary. Don’t feel obligated to do so just because someone asked you nicely. Pressure tactics often come in the form of reasonable or simple requests, the ability to make you feel that providing details about your life and finances is no big deal, or leading you to believe that providing these details is commonplace. Therefore, be wary. Ask questions. Don’t fall for the nice guy routine. Even criminals can act nice when they want something. Remember, you can’t see through to the other side of an email or webpage, and it’s easy for scammers to place a “secure site” logo on their website that means absolutely nothing just to lure unsuspecting victims into a false sense of security.
If you are unsure about the particular security of a site, do some snooping before putting yourself or your information out there. I often choose to do a Google search with the particular site or company name I want to learn more about and then “+ scam” after it to see what comes up.
Now just about every time I do this, I find that someone thinks even a reputable company is a scam or runs scams, so you might have to take some search results with a grain of salt, but if you suddenly find a vast number of responses or complaints about a certain company’s improper business practices, it might be time to rethink providing them with any pertinent financial information.
When it comes to creating backups for your most important computer files, it isn’t always about how you keep your files, but where you keep them. Consider: You back up all your most important financial files on a zip drive. Your house burns down. Your computer and zip drive both melt. Doesn’t help you much does it?
What if you put that zip drive in a fire safe? It might protect it from fire, although many fire safes are only good up to a certain temperature, but I can guarantee you from personal experience, not all fire safes are waterproof. And how are fires put out? Exactly. So once again, that zip drive could be destroyed and you left out of luck.
So instead, maybe you think it would be wise to keep that zip drive on your keychain in case of a home fire. You go out to eat, give your keys to a valet parking attendant and when they come back, the zip drive is missing. He says it must have fallen off when he wasn’t looking. Maybe – maybe not. Now who is in control of your most valued financial information?
Enough scenarios though. Hopefully you get the point. While your personal preferences will likely dictate how you protect your financial files, you might consider putting a copy of them in a safe deposit box. Along with these files, you might decide to include credit card numbers, account numbers, and other information pertinent to contacting your financial services in the event that the actual cards or account numbers are lost or stolen.
The author is not a licensed financial or security professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. For financial advice, readers should consult a licensed financial advisor. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.