With the announcement that Equifax, one of the “big three” American credit bureaus, suffered a serious cyber-security breach recently, we want to ensure our clients that keeping your personal identifying information secure is a top priority for our firm. To better protect you and your accounts from cyber-security threats, we are continuously reviewing and updating our internal security procedures to ensure that we are following best practices recommended by the custodians, financial institutions, and industry experts we work with.
While we feel that we’re taking proper steps in our firm’s security measures, we’re encouraging our clients and their family members to also take steps to help protect their identity and reduce potential security risks. Here are some suggestions to help reduce the risk of cyber-security threats:
MANAGE YOUR DEVICES
- Install the most up-to-date antivirus and antispyware programs on all devices (PC’s, laptops, tablets, smartphones) and update these software programs as they become available. Set these programs to run regularly vs. running periodic scans to provide maximum protection.
- Access sensitive data only through a secure location or device; never access confidential personal or financial data via a public computer (such as in an airport, hotel, or library).
- If you have children, make sure you enable restrictions on your computer to prevent them from accessing certain types of websites, and monitor their activity. If possible you may want to set up a separate computer that they can use just for games or other online activity.
PROTECT ALL PASSWORDS
- Reset your passwords frequently, including those for your email accounts. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts or websites, especially for your financial accounts that you access online. Never use your Social Security number as any part of your login for financial account access.
- Don’t keep your passwords in email folders or stored anywhere on a mobile device. Consider using a password manager program instead.
- Utilize fingerprint or retina scan technology for mobile device apps, especially when accessing your financial accounts.
- Although not applicable to the cyber world, passwords should not be written down and stored in an unsecured place; even though we’ve all done it, a sticky note attached to your PC is not a good idea. (I’m sure some of you are looking at the sticky note attached to your computer monitor right now!)
PROTECT YOUR EMAIL ACCOUNTS
- Delete any emails that include detailed personal and financial information beyond the time that it’s needed. Continually assess whether you even need to store this type of information in an email account.
- Use secure data storage programs to archive important data and documents that contain detailed personal and financial information.
- Review unsolicited emails carefully. Never click on links in unsolicited emails or in pop-up ads, especially those that warn that your computer is infected with a virus and you should take immediate action. Never open attachments in unsolicited emails, such as those that state “Your invoice is attached.”
- Consider establishing separate email accounts for personal correspondence and financial transactions.
SURF THE WEB SAFELY
- Don’t connect to the Internet via unsecured or unknown wireless networks, such as those in public locations like airports, cybercafes, restaurants, hotels, etc. Hackers are skilled at creating fake wireless networks that are often hard to distinguish from legitimate ones. Associate “Free Wi-Fi” with “Free for All” for criminals who are hoping to access your information.
- Be aware of your surroundings when using your mobile devices in public places. The “tourist” or “selfie addict” standing behind you taking pictures with their cell phone camera may in fact be a criminal taking video of you entering your login information to a financial website.
SAFEGUARD YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION AND FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS
- Never send personal identifying information or financial account information via email, chat, or other unsecured channel.
- Limit the amount of personal information you post on social networking sites. Consider keeping your birth date, home address, and phone number confidential.
- Review all your credit card and financial statements as soon as they arrive or become available online. If any transaction looks suspicious, or you can’t recall authorizing it, immediately contact your financial institution where the account is held.
These suggestions won’t stop cyber-criminals; but they can create barriers to your information and reduce your risk of fraud. We’d like to remind our clients to notify us immediately if you suspect that your email or financial accounts have been compromised. We encourage you to contact us with any questions or concerns about how we protect your personal identifying information and accounts, or any additional steps you and your family can take to better protect yourselves and reduce these risks.
As always, we sincerely appreciate the trust you place in us and the opportunity to help you achieve your financial goals.