What is #1 on your New Year's resolution list? by Sonny Montiel

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January 21, 2015


In the new year, many make it an annual tradition to resolve to eat healthier and exercise more. Sometimes these are tough to keep, but there is one resolution you must keep and it should be at the top of your list for 2015—safeguarding your personal information!

In today’s world of technology, setting our New Year’s resolutions into motion is at our fingertips—cyberspace, the internet, computers, tablets, smart phones and social media enable us to communicate instantaneously and even check bank accounts and make deposits from our living rooms.

However, serious issues have emerged from being constantly “connected.” Cybercriminals have committed offenses against all walks of life—from government agencies to iconic consumer brands; and from trusted financial institutions to the average family and consumer. With some basic tools and information, we can all fully benefit from technology and cyberspace while being responsible in the process. Take control of your overall safety and security with this checklist for 2015 as your guide:

  • Always guard your purse, wallet or briefcase everywhere you go. Do not leave your valuables exposed for thieves to easily steal.
  • Account for all your belongings while traveling via cab, bus, train or plane. Leaving a laptop or tablet loaded with your personal information is a gold mine for thieves.
  • Keep software current on all your computing devices by pre-setting it to perform its work on regular intervals.
  • Keep computing devices clean of viruses and other forms of malicious software by using anti-virus software which also updates automatically.
  • Beware of links in emails and websites, social media and online advertising. They are often the means cybercriminals use to compromise computers. For example, a malicious software trend known as ransomware locks you out of your computer data files until you pay a criminal to
    unlock it.
  • Be mindful when storing Social Security numbers, financial or other confidential information on portable USB storage drives which can be lost or stolen.
  • Make sure your computer firewall is enabled to protect your computer from unauthorized entry.
  • Always use caution when using applications that link you to the outside world—surfing the web and emails. When in doubt, delete the email or do not enter the site.
  • Use caution regarding free internet access. Cybercriminals lurk in venues with free Wi-Fi to steal information from vulnerable computers.
  • When accessing online systems with confidential information and/or to perform monetary transactions, always look for web addresses which begin with https://. These web providers take extra measures to secure your information. Addresses which begin with http:// are unsecure and mostly used for general web surfing activity.
  • Safeguard your personal identifiable information when going online. Many providers have advanced access controls beyond usernames and passwords for your security and to make it harder for thieves to steal your confidential information.
  • Make passwords long and strong by combining capital and lower case letters with numbers and symbols. Use unique passwords for your different online systems. Using only one password for all your systems is like giving a thief a master key to every lock in your home.
  • Backup all of your computing devices regularly. In the event an item becomes lost or stolen, you have restorable data to help get you back to normal as soon as possible.
  • Visit government websites such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Trade Commission for new and updated security tips. Be aware of your surroundings in cyberspace. Share information with your friends and family for the betterment of all online communities.
We should not underestimate the tenacity of our adversaries. Cyber attacks are inevitable and occur every day, but all of us can employ security measures to combat them and safeguard our private information.

What are your New Year’s resolutions? It is not too late to resolve to become more responsible and secure in your use of computers and other devices in cyberspace.