If 2019 taught us anything, it was that it’s just a matter of time before hackers find our personal information online.
After a string of major hacks affecting millions of internet users, there are few people left online who haven’t been affected. With 100 million Capital One COF, +0.94% customers having their sensitive data exposed on top of last year’s Equifax breach EFX, +0.12% exposing the data of 148 million customers, Marriott MAR, +0.29% exposing 500 million users’ information, and Exactis exposing the data of more than 340 million people, your information is at a higher risk than ever.
Here are five easy steps you can take to make yourself — and your finances — less hackable.
Use a password manager
Too many people still use passwords like “123456” and “password” to keep their accounts secure, according to a report from software company SplashData on the ‘100 Worst Passwords of the Year.’ Passwords that are that easy to guess put you at risk — and it isn’t hard to do better. Using a password manager will keep all of your accounts secure with unique and complex passwords, and you only have to remember one: the master password.
To do this, set up an account at a well-known manager service like Lastpass, 1Password, Dashlane, Keeper, or Password Boss. While there is a negligible risk the password manager itself could be hacked, experts say any manager is still safer than trying to remember your own passwords.
Turn on two-factor authentication
Make sure to turn on two-factor authentication on your password manager as well as for accessing individual websites. This security feature verifies your identity before you log on to a site by sending a code to your phone through text message or email. The website Turn It On: The Ultimate Guide to Two-Factor Authentication, allows users to search for any site they are logging into to see if it offers the feature. Besides text verification, there are other two-factor options, including a Yubikey, a $45 USB device that you can plug into a computer to verify that you are the correct user.
Change your router password
After several high-profile breaches involving internet routers, it would be wise to change the default password on any device in your home that’s connected to the internet. Often when you purchase an internet router, it comes with a default string of letters and numbers as the password. These passwords are easily available on online forums, on the dark web and the regular internet, making it possible for hackers to get into your home network and every device connected to it. Changing your home network password is one of the most simple ways to avoid getting hacked.
Change your default DNS
An easy way to strengthen your online security in just a few clicks is to change the default Domain Name System (DNS) used by your internet service provider to a safer alternative. Changing the address to Google, 188.8.131.52, or Cloudflare 184.108.40.206, or Quad9, 220.127.116.11 offers better protections against hacking. This can be done through ”Control Panel” on a Windows device or “System Preferences” on a Mac device.
Freeze or lock your credit
A 2018 federal law made it free for consumers to freeze their credit at all three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian EXPGF, +1.47% and TransUnion TRU, +0.06%. Meanwhile, the three bureaus have made freezing or locking one’s credit report much easier by introducing mobile apps that allow consumers to block or un-block access to their credit information on the go.
Given how common it is for companies to get hacked these days, this is a simple step that can prevent hackers from stealing a consumer’s information and using it to open fraudulent credit accounts.
This story was originally published in January 2019.