This article is a departure from tips for physical security of your personal information, to essential digital security measures. The constant evolution of security threats and advertisement of new digital protection products can be overwhelming. You might know that you should be protecting your information on your devices but have questions about which are really necessary. In Part III of the American ID Recovery Protect and Educate Series, “Protecting Personal Data,” we elaborate on the steps you can take to minimize your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.

BACK TO BASICS

Install operating system and automatic software updates. The most common system update is a security update, which is issued to protect your computer against vulnerabilities that might be exploited. If your computer is on and running software, you’re vulnerable to malicious attacks. It is wise to install security updates for both your software and operating system as soon as they are released to ensure your system and all the information in it is as protected as possible against constantly changing threats. This is foundational computer maintenance and if you or someone close to you hasn’t been practicing it, such as a child or senior relative, you should consider putting an identity theft protection service into place. We know software update notifications can be annoying, but you receive them for a good reason. Disable these essential digital security notifications at your own risk.

Use firewall and anti-virus protection. For the folks who might believe the operating system and software updates are sufficient security to ward off identity theft, realize that an effective defense has several layers, similar to a battle group. Each layer contributes divergent strengths and force to maintain the shared, overarching goal of protection. Keep your firewall up to date. While the firewall is part of your essential digital security – it is still a program or device that filters the information coming through the Internet connection into your private network or computer system. Antivirus protects against internal theft of personal details through malware. In fact, not only will antivirus identify and destroy the malicious virus, it also launches its own campaign of destruction, neutralizing and destroying other types of threats we have discussed before such as phishing attacks, worms, Trojan horses, and more.

Set up your devices to automatically lock. If you’ve ever lost a phone from right under your nose or panicked, wondering whether you locked your computer, you should set up your devices to lock themselves. There are several options within your phone’s security settings to keep thieves out: set up a pin, pattern, biometric access, and more. Computers have multiple essential digital security options as well. Many users bypassed security setup or have inherited devices. If this is you, a minor, or an elder in your care, explore the settings to configure a password or pin and also consider setting a short window in which the computer will fall asleep and lock the computer. If you’re a tech-savvy Windows user -or want to be- pair your phone to your computer and lock your screen via Bluetooth technology when walking out of range.

In our next installation, American ID Recovery wraps up the Protecting Personal Data series. Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals, we’ll break down some intermediate level data security tips for you to keep your personal information and those you care about, out of the hands of criminals.