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Protect Your Information Online
by TaylorM on 

What did we do before Google? The Internet has become a large part of our lives. Most of us have been in a situation where someone asks a question and out comes the Smart phone. Access to the internet never seems to be out of reach.


The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) states that 87% of Canadian households are connected to the web. We can pay our bills; go shopping online; stay in contact with friends and family, and watch endless hours of cat videos (I know you have, donít lie!).


However, using the Internet comes with risks. Technology continues to evolve, and with it, the threat of cyberattacks is growing and will likely only get stronger. McAfee estimates that the annual cost to the global economy from cybercrime is more than $400 billion!


Common cyber-attacks aim to exploit a userís computer or worse, steal their identity.  Cyber-attacks take many forms and include exploitation of computers which are not kept up to date, the installation of malware downloaded to a userís computer, phishing attacks, and infecting computers with viruses. Cybersecurity protects computers, networks, programs and data from unintended or unauthorized access, change or destruction.


Here are some tips to better protect you from cyberattacks:

  • Use two-factor authentication:
    • Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security that requires something on top of just a username and password, the user provides two means of identification. It is typically something memorized, such as a security code.
  • Use strong passwords:
    • Using strong passwords lowers your overall risk of a security breach. You will want to create a password that is difficult for someone to hack or guess. The following are some guidelines to use when creating a password:
      • Donít use passwords that are based on personal information that is easy to guess or learn from social media
      • Use both lowercase and uppercase letters
      • Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters
      • Use different passwords on different systems
      • The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack
      • Set up security questions, if possible create your own, and ensure the answers to the questions are not easy to discover from your social media account
  • Encrypt the important stuff:
    • Encryption is the process of encoding information in such a way that only authorized people can read it. It can be as simple as adding a password to your lock screen on your phone to buying packages that protects your communication plan. This website has more great tips on how to encrypt your information.


Increasing cyber threats to financial information

Taking steps to protect your own phone and computer are important. Itís equally important to discuss with the businesses you frequent how they are protecting your information; particularly your financial professionals.  The threat of cyber-attacks continues to grow and financial institutions are increasingly being targeted by cyber-attacks. Many firms are taking proactive steps to guard against cybersecurity risks.


It may feel awkward to initiate this type of discussion, so weíve pulled together the following questions to ask to help you become more informed:

  • Has your firm addressed which cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities may impact its business?
  • Does your firm have written policies, procedures, or training programs in place regarding safeguarding your personal information?
  • Does your firm maintain insurance coverage for cybersecurity?
  • Has your firm engaged an outside consultant to provide cybersecurity services?
  • Does your firm have confidentiality agreements with any third-party service providers with access to the firmís information technology systems?
  • Has your firm ever experienced a cybersecurity incident where, directly or indirectly, theft, loss, unauthorized exposure, use of, or access to customer information occurred?  If so, has it taken steps to close any gaps in its cybersecurity infrastructure?
  • Does your firm use safeguards such as encryption, antivirus and anti-malware programs?
  • Does your firm contact clients via email or other electronic messaging, and if so, does the firm use secure email and/or any procedures to authenticate client instructions received via email or electronic messaging, to work against the possibility of a client being impersonated?


You can never be too cautious when it comes to protecting yourself from cyber threats. With technology continuing to become more and more powerful, the threat of cyberattacks continues to grow. The best way you can protect yourself is to become an informed consumer. March is Fraud Prevention Month. For more information how to spend smart and spend safe, visit our Fraud Prevention Month page.

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