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This Time It’s Personal: Securing Your Data From Cybercriminals

It is rare that a day goes by without a data breach headline in our newsfeeds, with extensive details on how cybercriminals circumnavigated a company’s defensive fortifications to steal sensitive data before deploying a catastrophic ransomware attack. While businesses have information security officers and expert IT personnel to help them avoid attack, individuals are often on their own when it comes to protecting their personal information. The following best practices can help you keep your data safe and secure:

Utilize Good Password Hygiene

Consider using a different complex password for each of your key applications and change them on a periodic basis to lessen the chances of compromised credentials. If remembering and changing passwords becomes too much of a challenge, employ the use of a reputable password manager that helps administer this process.

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication Everywhere You Can

Having another factor of authentication in addition to a password makes accessing your data exponentially more secure. For example, acknowledging a message on an app on your phone in addition to entering a password means that cybercriminals would have to somehow compromise both your password and your phone to access your data.

Encrypt Your Data

Most operating systems have a built-in encryption solution (e.g., Windows Bitlocker or Mac’s FileVault) that secures your data in the event someone steals your computer or mobile device. Without the encryption key, unauthorized access will be rendered virtually impossible.

Secure Your Mobile Devices

Utilize a password on your mobile phones and tablets to prevent thieves from easily accessing your data in the event your device is stolen. Avoid installing suspicious apps (especially on Android devices), leaving your device unattended, and connecting to unsecured and easily intercepted Wi-Fi connections. Research how to find or erase a lost phone or tablet using a tool such as “Find My Phone” for Apple or “Find My Device” for Android.

Update Your Applications and Devices

Vendors are constantly providing security patches and updates to keep their products safe from attack. Make sure the version of software or firmware you are running is the latest update, as cybercriminals are relentless in identifying vulnerabilities that they can leverage to wreak havoc. Updating home routers should not be overlooked, as manufacturers periodically offer firmware updates to help keep internet connections safe from attack.

Install a Reliable Antivirus Solution

Avoid free antivirus solutions or products that no longer have an active subscription. Trusted solutions that continuously update with the latest definitions will greatly increase the chances of malware being blocked before it infects your computer.

Enable Your Firewall

Having a software firewall (e.g., Windows Defender Firewall) enabled on your computer can help prevent attackers from gaining access to your data, as the firewall can filter and block traffic that is coming into your system. Many home routers also have a built-in firewall that should be enabled to add an additional layer of protection.

Back Up Your Data

Consider using an encrypted flash drive or a trusted cloud storage solution to back up your important data on a regular basis. Whether it’s a failed hard drive or a ransomware attack, hard drives can be easily rendered inoperable, so frequent and reliable backups are critical to quickly restoring your data after an unexpected incident.

Beware of Spear Phishing

If you receive an unexpected email, text message, or phone call that asks you to reply with sensitive information, click on a link, or open an attachment, stop before you act! Consider contacting the sender (even if they appear to be a trusted source) via another means such as a phone call to verify their identity and the legitimacy of the request.

Have a Plan If All Else Fails

In the event you are victimized by a cybercriminal, have a plan to slow or stop the damage. For example, have a list of who to contact after an attack (e.g., the Federal Trade Commission, local police, etc.) and familiarize yourself with how to access your credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit file.

By following these tips, you can greatly reduce the chance of your personal information falling prey to cyber criminals. To learn more, contact Citrin Cooperman’s Technology, Risk Advisory, and Cybersecurity Practice professionals or Kevin Ricci at

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