5 Tips for Preventing Identity Theft

Cybercrime is a serious problem that is only getting worse. But there are some things you can do to protect yourself.

Identity theft is a huge problem in today’s world. According to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study, cybercriminals stole $16.8 billion from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, which was a record high! That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself from identity theft. In this blog post, we will discuss 5 tips for preventing identity theft. Follow these tips and you’ll be much less likely to become a victim of cybercrime!

Tip #01: Keep Your Personal Information Private

One of the best ways to prevent identity theft is to keep your personal information private. That means being careful about what you share on social media, not sharing your passwords with anyone, and shredding any documents that contain your personal information before throwing them away.

iStratus can help.  Our encryption software is the perfect way to secure all of the data you store on your phone.  Read more about why and how you can use iStratus to encrypt photos, bank statements, and more all in one place.

Tip #02: Use Strong Passwords

Another important way to protect yourself from identity theft is to use strong passwords. A strong password should be at least eight characters long and include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using easily guessed words like “password” or your birthday.

And never reuse passwords! We know this one is hard.  How in the world can you be expected to remember a different password for every account?

iStratus can help with this as well.  By using our password vault to store your passwords, you are less likely to have them fall into the wrong hands.  It also takes the stress out of trying to remember the dozens of passwords we all have to store in our heads.

Still not convinced?  Consider this. If Facebook is hacked and the passwords are exposed, within minutes, a hacker can take that data and try to access your doctor records, bank accounts, and other financial data.  Having a different password for each account helps protect you.  We think it is well worth the extra effort.

Tip #03: Monitor Your Accounts Regularly

Another good way to prevent identity theft is to monitor your accounts regularly. Check your credit card and bank statements frequently for unauthorized charges and review your credit report at least once a year to look for any red flags. If you see anything suspicious, report it immediately.

The old saying, “what you don’t know, can’t hurt you,” no longer applies.  Knowing what’s happening with your accounts is a good step towards good cyber hygiene.

Tip #04: Be Careful When Shopping Online

When shopping online, be sure to only shop on secure websites (look for the “HTTPS” in the URL). And never save your credit card information on a not secure website.

Also, beware of phishing scams, which are emails or websites that pose as a legitimate company in order to get your personal information. If you’re ever unsure about a website or email, contact the company directly to verify its authenticity. This happened last year when a fraudulent ad was posted on Facebook.  The ad appeared to be a big saving on a very popular shoe.  It was only when the shoes didn’t show up that customers became aware of the fraud.

Tip #05: Protect Your Devices

Identity thieves can also access your personal information through your devices, so it’s important to protect them as well. Install security software on all of your devices and keep it up-to-date. And be sure to create strong passwords for all of your devices as well!

By following these tips, you can help protect yourself from identity theft. Cybercrime is a serious problem, not just for big companies but for individuals as well.   By taking some simple precautions, you can make it much less likely that you’ll become a victim. Stay safe out there!

Phew, that was a lot of information! But it’s all important stuff to keep in mind if you want to protect yourself from identity theft. Just remember: keep your personal information private, use strong passwords, monitor your accounts regularly, be careful when shopping online, and protect your devices. And of course, use the iStratus App to protect your passwords and encrypt your data. Do all of these things and you’ll be much less likely to have your identity stolen. Thanks for reading!

Did you find this blog post helpful? Share it with your friends on social media to help them stay safe from identity theft! And if you have any questions about cybersecurity or identity theft prevention, feel free to contact us. We’re always happy to help! Download iStratus now!

Passwords In Words

Creating strong passwords may seem like a tediously daunting task, especially when the consensus is to use a unique password for every site you visit. 

It’s simply nuts trying to keep track of these things along with everything else in your life. Consequently, you may be more inclined to use one password despite the fact that we know it’s unsafe and potentially compromises all of our information. Or you may use numerous passwords, although they are simple words, or include numbers that relate to our lives which are easy for hackers to guess. 

Those hard-to-remember passwords (probably because your business or a website forced you to) are just that, hard to recall. So these passwords are right next to your computer – even though this also compromises safety on a shared computer.

Forgettable passwords are useless. And passwords that are too easy can lead to an attack. With most of our personal lives increasingly migrating to online status, iStratus is here to give you some ideas on how to create strong passwords and keep your information safe in a technological world. 

What’s A Strong Password You Ask?

Strong passwords are typically longer (the longer the better); a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols, not connected to personal information or dictionary words. 

The good news is you don’t have to memorize awful strings of randomness, impossible to remember. It simply takes a few effective tricks.

Weak Passwords Are Easily Spotted

Passwords can be memorable and remain difficult to guess. Creating them can be fun and safety is a huge payoff.

Let’s consider what constitutes “weak passwords” to understand why these are risky:

First, a word akin to “Password” is a NO.

Password is the most commonly used password. We also believe it’s pretty clear why such a password is weak – as are words like: ’default’. Programs that use automated assault can easily identify these passwords. As is using a last name and year of birth (i.e. Smithy1965) combination, particularly if someone knows you well. Identifying pieces of information also means it can be easily deciphered.

Secondly, let’s say, you use “F1avoR” as a password, mixing up capital letters and numbers. Here are two important reasons why this password example isn’t safe: 

  1. It’s a common word and
  2.  If a password is too short, it isn’t safe either. A long password is a strong password, as it’s harder to decode/break. Also, substituting the number “1” for the letter “I” is easy to guess for both humans and software alike.

Staying Password Strong and Secure

By now, you’ve likely discovered that the “perfect password” is a lengthy combination of obscure letters, numbers, cases, and symbols. You’ve got it. 

It’s also important NOT to: 

 

  • Write your passwords down: This can be tempting, especially in the workplace, to keep track of passwords the old-fashioned way, but these are easily discovered.
  • Reuse your passwords. If your passwords are identical across email, and other websites holding sensitive personal data, it is easily exposed and is at risk of being breached.
  • Don’t share your passwords. It’s a total no-brainer and if you absolutely must, change it as soon as possible.

Create a Unique Password (That’s Also Strong)

The short answer is: A hard-to-crack password is unique and easy to remember. 

In addition, we encourage you to use a password manager, like our iStratus Vault, which is specifically designed to offer you a way to store passwords securely. Learn more about organizing your passwords with a password vault here

Password Induced Stress

New research by NorPass suggests, the stress of trying to recall our passwords is contributing to the vicious cycle of mental health, anxiety, and stress.

Their evidence indicates,  “the average Internet user has around 70-80 passwords” for their accounts? So each year, “we spend 7-12 hours on average trying to remember and reset those passwords.” 

Thus, trying to keep track of these procedures and memorize our passwords results in a lot of time wasted, which inadvertently contributes to the experience often referred to as password stress.

Our suggestion in creating a password is to apply a phrase and incorporate shortcuts or acronyms that either mean something to you, or you associate with a type of website, with minimal effort.

For example, it could be a phrase about money for a banking site, and so forth. You can be Shakespeare’s Hamlet: 2BankorNot2Bank_Thisis$? (Based on “To be or not to be? That is the question”).

Also, Use Commonly Accepted Symbols:

This is self-explanatory, symbols such as ! # $ % * & + = can help you create stronger passwords

Give Emoticons Some Love

While there are some limits with the types of symbols you can use, most sites allow a decent range. Try turning them into “smiley” faces, :))) and give a fun boost to your password power. You already know that a smile is easier to recall! 

Check Out Your Keyboard

Given that most computer keyboards contain anywhere from 101 to 105 keys, there are countless options to craft unique passwords. It’s a canvas to draw on! So get creative with your system of symbols, abbreviations, and combinations that works for you.

iStratus hopes you find these ideas helpful. Share these tips around. Just don’t share your passwords and change them regularly!

Live life and roll well with iStratus.

Are Your Passwords Organized Yet?

We can run into all kinds of password dilemmas when they are kept in unbelievably random and insecure places…

The truth is: We don’t want to know your info! It is no secret passwords are the key to unimaginable disaster or chaos in the wrong hands! It pays not to be careless or flippant with this information. 

Things are bound to go wrong with that eventually, trust us.

And don’t get us started on the views of: “I don’t need a password system… I have one that I use for everything.”

This is yet another cause for ruin and disaster! If this is you, we at iStratus are providing some friendly advice to please think again. 

We are all likely to know a person whose e-mail password was compromised, and horrifyingly with this, there’s also the potential for any thief to infiltrate things further. 

If your e-mail account is compromised, for example, the thief can use the  ‘forgotten password functions’ on other websites to unlock many more accounts (as details are emailed directly to the perpetrator). Everything can be completely swiped – it’s a piece of cake or the whole chunk of it, for hackers and bots to initiate multiple breaches if the password in question is an identical one. What’s worse, often by the time one discovers the disaster – all hell has broken loose already, with hundreds of thousands in funds swiped… it is no joke.

Lessons to be learned: Adopt very strong passwords and use passwords managers such as iStratus’s Password Vault with its encryption to protect your passwords. In addition, guard the security of your email account/s fiercely. iStratus recommends using different passwords to avoid compromising every other account you have. Also, change your passwords often and take notice of any usual changes. Set your notifications at the ready.

Furthermore, we suggest that people also need to be mindful of being run over, smack bang by the proverbial freight train. Would important people in your life know how to access this information if something unexpected happened to you? It is pretty critical, that there’s a clear system someone else knows how to reach in the case of an emergency.

Like Our Vault: Electronic Password Keepers

There are abundant database applications made for storing passwords. We don’t want this to seem like a sales pitch here. We just want you to know there is a benefit to transporting all of your important information with you, securely encrypted, when away from my desk. 

Pro-Tip: Whatever application it is you choose, please DON’T trust a Word or Excel document for this purpose of recording (particularly one conveniently named “Passwords”) which can be effortlessly intruded.

Staying Secure When Cyberspace is Endlessly Vast 

The point is: Keep your passwords on the down-low. Think of it somewhat like this: Leaving your passwords easily accessible, is kind of like locking the front door, or securing your home with the latest, most fan-dangle, expensive security system — and leaving the backdoor wide open, as an invitation. Along with a welcome note saying: Check out my fridge, please feel free to help yourself.

Avoid writing or recording any password hints that are comparative to other accounts held, such as “same as PayPal”. It may seem obvious, but it needs to be said – this can become a big cross-referencing mess very quickly, particularly when you change the “referred-to” accounts and forget to reference this!!

Yes, a frustrating muck, you’ll likely spend hours attempting to rectify with frustration. Chances are, you’re not alone in this experience.

Here are some unforgettable words of golden password wisdom from people in the know: 

 

“Passwords are like underwear. You should change them often. Don’t share them. Don’t leave them out for others to see. They should be mysterious.”~ Chris Pirillo

 

In other words, ensure your passwords are cryptic to people.

And…

“Treat your passwords like your toothbrush. Don’t let anybody else use it and get a new one every six months.” ~ Clifford Stoll

All humor aside, your security is important.

So, on a final note, pretty PLEASE avoid using your birthday or any significant names associated with you! Choose something long but memorable. A nonsense sentence is a good password, such as “Myfavoritemorning2drinkisColdBrewCoffee!” We repeat: Don’t use something obvious, and if you must, record the master password if you tend to worry about forgetting such things.

In offering this advice, there is no bias intended, but one of the greatest advantages of adopting an electronic system is that you can use even more secure passwords and switch them up regularly since you are no longer relying on your memory to hold everything within.

Free up your mind – we’d love you to join us. Live life and roll well with iStratus.