Preventing identity theft online means not letting your personal information fall into the wrong hands. Given our reliance on the internet (for shopping, online banking, renewing your license, etc.), keeping sensitive information secure can be a difficult task. But it’s an important one.
Maintaining a digital perimeter around your most sensitive information will take a bit of effort and input from the entire family. But you’ll find it’s well worth the effort if it prevents others from stealing your personal information online. We’ve put together some strategies to develop a better home security system when it comes to online threats like hackers and identity thieves.
1. Update your router’s defenses
The first step to a digitally secure home is making sure your network is secure. Start by encrypting your network’s signal by accessing the router’s settings. WPA2 offers the best protection, especially when combined with an intentional password that’s difficult to crack. Make sure to check our guide on how to create passwords.
Don’t settle for an easily remembered phrase. The more complex your password, the more difficult your network is for intruders to access. You can also set your router to filter MAC (media access control) addresses, preventing all but registered devices from being recognized by the network.
PC Magazine recommends you turn off your network’s broadcasting function to require that all users manually enter the name of your network to connect. This will make your network name invisible to intruders looking for vulnerable networks to crack.
Securing your Wi-Fi network can help prevent identity theft online by refusing potential thieves access to the devices that could have personal information. A smart home could have a number of connected devices, many of which hold information used for identity theft, or at the very least make sensitive information (like credit card numbers) more accessible.
2. Avoid entering sensitive data over a public network
Cybercriminals don’t need to be within range of your wireless network to compromise your personal security and gain access to your identity.
A public Wi-Fi network in a restaurant, work or even the home of a friend is the last place you want to make an online transaction on your smartphone. There’s no telling what kind of security measures are protecting the signal or who may already be monitoring traffic across the network.
Such networks are easy prey for a savvy hacker looking to score valuable information, and even a simple purchase could reveal credit card information and your home address.
Better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your bank account and credit score.
3. Watch what you say online
Social media has plenty of perks, but it comes with a few risks as well. One of those risks is the reality that you can never be 100% sure of who is able to view what you say and post. Even information you think is harmless could compromise your identity online.
Share the importance of online identity protection while on social media with family members. Hackers have been known to target seniors and young children in attempts to steal personal information online, especially on social media.
Even statuses that are only made visible to friends can be viewed by strangers if their accounts or devices have been hacked. Given all the uncertainty inherent to the digital era, a bit of discretion on social media will go a long way toward preventing identity theft online.
4. Monitor the traffic on your Wi-Fi network
Make sure your wireless network and personal information have not been compromised by keeping a close eye on all the devices that are currently accessing your network. Whether you detect the presence of a criminal or your friendly neighborhood internet mooch, repelling the threat will be much easier once you have a better idea of where it came from.
There are several programs you can use to track this information, and some high-end routers have software included that make monitoring network traffic over your router a breeze.
If you do detect unauthorized access, first see if the rogue device you find was just a guest with a computer or smartphone who asked to use the wireless signal. If that doesn’t appear to be the case, start updating passwords, changing network addresses and strengthening router encryption. This should help boot the intruder from your network and protect your identity online.
Follow our internet experts for more ways to boost home security, protect your online identity and enhance your high-speed internet experience.
Originally published 08/20/15. Last updated 08/22/19.