image depicting password protection

Are your accounts safe?

How many accounts do you have with various online platforms and service providers?

You could probably name a handful off the top of your head. But go into your web browser, and the chances are you’d find hundreds of accounts and passwords.

Depending on the web browser you use, you might already get notifications if your credentials are identified in a data breach. Every time this happens, it’s incredibly frustrating. It can sometimes be outright frightening, especially if we start getting phishing emails or notifications about suspicious activity on our bank account or credit card.

While our angst is usually – and often rightly – directed at the companies we trust to hold our data, sometimes we need to do more as individuals to keep our data safe.

How vigilant are you about protecting your details?

Cybercriminals have many ways to target your data. From scraping, which many don’t even consider a data breach, to outright hacks, it’s easy for your sensitive data to fall into the wrong person’s hands.

While you need to be aware of what data you put into the public domain – which can easily lead to scraping – there are also many other things you should consider to ramp up how vigilant you are around your digital security.

What leads to individuals being put at risk?

It’s easy to spend time looking at what businesses can do better to protect our data. But sometimes, it’s simply the case that, as individuals, we need to be more alert to the risks and avoid putting ourselves in potentially dangerous situations.

Knowing the most common factors that can lead to your accounts – and data – being put at risk is a great place to start.

1.     Weak passwords

Password manager apps are widely available and, in many cases, free. On top of the popular apps like LastPass, web browsers like Google Chrome also generate hard to crack passwords and store them at no cost.

Yet, people continue to use obvious passwords like “password” and 123456, as we saw in late 2021.

Using passwords like these examples means your data doesn’t even need to be stolen from elsewhere for you to be put at risk. All a cybercriminal may need is your email address – which they may be able to get from your social media profiles or elsewhere online – and they can try and log in to various online accounts trying the obvious passwords that so many people still use.

On top of this, many people continue to reuse passwords on multiple websites. If you do this, and a website where you’ve used a repeat password gets hacked, all of your other accounts are at risk. Changing one password is easier than changing hundreds of them.

Ensure you’re using a password manager app to generate and store passwords, and never use the same password again.

2.     Unsecure software

How often do you ignore the latest update of your laptop software or an App on your smartphone?

While it’s understandable you may have concerns about performance and your devices slowing down, these updates often include vital security patches that fix known vulnerabilities.

Keep all your devices, apps, and software up to date to maximise your digital security.

3.     Connecting to unknown or insecure Wi-Fi networks

Working from home doesn’t always mean working from home. It might mean working in your local coffee shop, a children’s indoor play centre, on the train, or even in the pub.

Unless you’re always using your smartphone as a mobile hotspot or have mobile Wi-Fi, that will often mean you’re accessing insecure Wi-Fi networks. This isn’t necessarily a problem, as long as you’re using a virtual private network (VPN) to access the internet, as this will encrypt your data and make it far more difficult for anyone to steal credentials or view the data you send. Most anti-virus software has VPN capability these days, which automatically switches on when an insecure network is identified.

Ensure your anti-virus software has this capability to keep yourself protected.

4.     Trusting unsafe websites

There are many dubious websites out there, but even a website being insecure – look for the padlock in the URL address bar – should be enough of a reason for you to turn away.

Even submitting your email address to subscribe to a newsletter on an insecure site can be dangerous. So whatever you do, don’t trust these websites! In addition, if anything about a website simply doesn’t feel right, close the site straight away. In some cases, simply clicking a link can be all it takes to trigger a malware download to your system.

Companies and organisations are accountable – but you can reduce the risk you face, too

Companies and organisations have to protect your data. While any data breach on their watch is unacceptable, it isn’t just those entities that have a duty of care.

You must ensure you’re doing everything it takes to protect yourself, too.

That starts with knowing what to look for, being more vigilant around your online behaviours, and following the guidance we’ve shared here.

If you do everything you can to protect yourself, but a company fails you, you could be entitled to compensation

Have you been the victim of a data breach due to a company’s negligence or for another reason?

Check out this article for guidance on whether you’ve been the victim of a data breach or fraud.

If you believe you have been the victim of a data breach, contact us here for a free, no-obligation review of your potential claim and to learn whether you may be entitled to compensation.

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