Have you ever received WhatsApp messages requesting your participation in surveys? Have you found yourself in a Telegram group promising investment wisdom from supposed financial gurus?
As our lives get increasingly intertwined in the online space, keeping your personal and financial information safe is more crucial than ever. Recent years have seen an alarming growth in cyber threats, online scams and identity theft. As such, it is ever more important to take proactive measures to protect yourself.
In this article, we will be exploring some valuable tips to enhance your online safety while minimising the risks of falling prey to fraud and unauthorised access.
What is information theft?
Information theft, or data theft, involves the unauthorised acquisition of confidential data stored on computers, servers, or electronic devices. In other words, stealing confidential information.
The aim is to obtain sensitive information which enables data thieves to impersonate you or your loved ones and gain unauthorised access to secure accounts for their benefit. Previously a concern primarily for businesses and organisations, information theft has now become a prevalent issue for individuals as well.
Such cybercrime is non-discriminatory and affects all individuals regardless of their race, age, or religion. Even professionals in the relevant fields of cybersecurity sometimes fall prey to such crimes.
What types of data are typically stolen?
While there are varying levels of sensitivity of information, data that is stolen is often sensitive and personal information that can be highly valuable to the attackers. These include:
- Full Name
- NRIC / Passport number
- Telephone number
- Email address
- Credit card number
- Bank account information
Hence, it is important to store such data securely and frequent review of them can allow you to identify if there are any security gaps.
Use strong and unique passwords
Passwords serve as a primary line of defence against unauthorised access to your private financial data. The importance of a strong password cannot be emphasised enough. A weak password can be cracked by an average day-to-day laptop in a matter of seconds.
A strong password should include:
- Uppercase and lowercase letters
- Special Characters
It is also recommended to use different passwords for each of your accounts. Updating your passwords regularly can also help make it harder for potential attackers. If you are concerned about not being able to remember your passwords, you can opt for password managers that store your passwords in an encrypted vault.
Enable multi factor authentication
Multi Factor authentication (MFA) is another layer of security that goes beyond the usage of passwords to verify a user’s identity. This can help to detect a compromised password and protect you in the event of a data breach.
The two-factor authentication (2FA) is the security measure that is widely adopted in Singapore that makes use of any two of the following:
- Inherence: Biometrics such as iris or fingerprint
- Knowledge: Password, PIN, Answers to the security question
- Possession: SMS, Email, OTP Token
While MFA has gained widespread adoption across various industries, it is still important to remain vigilant and prioritise its use whenever available as some applications or software do not have it turned on by default.
By consistently leveraging MFA, you are positioning yourself in a good spot against unauthorised access.
Be aware of phishing attacks
Phishing is a form of social engineering where victims are deceived into revealing sensitive information or installing malware onto their devices.
Though it is often delivered in the form of email, phishing comes in many forms. The main idea is to trick you into clicking on the provided link where you’ll be taken to a fake website that looks legitimate.
Here are some tips to help you identify or prevent such scams:
- Never open attachments or click on links sent from unknown senders.
- If a link looks suspicious, hover over it without clicking to check where it will bring you.
- Always double-check the URL even if the site looks legitimate.
- Never send your personal or financial information over emails
If you are unsure about a link, it is always better to be safe and avoid it altogether.
Use secure Wi-Fi networks
Public hotspots, such as those found in airports, hotels and restaurants, often lower their security settings to facilitate easy access for users. However, this convenience comes with an increased risk of potential leakage of your information. Some hackers even go as far as setting up their deceptive public networks with familiar names, enticing unsuspecting individuals.
If you are accessing your financial accounts online or shopping online, make sure you are accessing them via a secure site. The URL should start with “https” instead of just “http” with a closed padlock icon in the status bar. Otherwise, potential attackers can intercept and view the information of your session.
Hence, it is advisable to only access your financial accounts under a trusted and encrypted network. Do not forget to log out of your account once you are done.
Shred sensitive documents
When you dispose of financial statements, bills, and other sensitive documents by simply throwing them away, you leave yourself vulnerable to “dumpster diving” which refers to the act of rummaging through trash or recycling bins in search of valuable information.
Identity thieves and fraudsters often engage in such activities to obtain discarded documents containing sensitive details like your bank account information or credit card details.
Shredding any important document before discarding can reduce the chances of it being pieced back together and leaking any sensitive information. This also applies to outdated identification cards, expired passports, insurance documents, medical records, etc.
Review financial accounts
Monitoring your financial accounts not only allows you to track your expenses but also identify any suspicious activities promptly. Look out for any unfamiliar charges when examining your statements and report them to the respective financial institution should you find anything that does not tally.
Take advantage of available features such as mobile notification each time a transaction is made that changes your account balance. This allows you to monitor your accounts and pick up any unusual activities in real time, minimising any potential damage in the event of unauthorised access.
Regularly update your devices
Lastly, regularly updating your software and devices helps to maintain the security of your digital ecosystem. Operating system updates often include important security patches that address vulnerabilities identified by developers or reported by security researchers.
These vulnerabilities, if left unpatched, can be exploited by hackers to gain unauthorised access to your device, install malware, or compromise your data. By promptly applying updates, you close these security gaps and fortify your device’s defences against potential attacks.
Tip: Enabling automatic updates is an efficient way to ensure that your software and devices stay current without requiring constant manual intervention.
Remember that protecting your personal and financial information is an ongoing commitment. Regularly reviewing privacy settings, monitoring financial accounts, and practising safe browsing habits are habits you should start to cultivate today.
The responsibility to safeguard your online presence ultimately rests upon your shoulders. Staying informed about the latest scams and fraud tactics can help you learn from others and mitigate the risks associated with identity theft, fraud and scams.