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Cybersecurity by Patti Fries IACCP®

Internet Usage: Recognizing and Avoiding Potential Security Risks

October 2015

With all the positive ways that the internet has impacted our lives in recent years, there have been some negatives as well. Our personal data is more vulnerable than ever before. With the electronic storage of our personal data and an increasing number of hackers devising ways to access this data, breaches are the most challenging aspect of cybersecurity today. According to a report published by The Copper River Group, as of February 2015, 70% of the United States population[1] became victims of data breaches in the prior 16-month period. Over the last few years, the term cybersecurity has been utilized to describe the overall need to protect computers, networks and information systems against a breach or access to valuable information.

At Cornerstone, we are committed to protecting confidential data.  We continually research and evaluate areas where we can improve in assuring the safety of client information.  In addition, we are taking a proactive role in educating our staff.  We would like to share a few simple ideas to assist our clients in recognizing and avoiding potential security risks. 

When using a mobile device such as a smartphone, iphone, ipad or any other type of tablet, use a passcode for accessing the device. A passcode will limit accessibility to your device and provide you with more time to disable the device if stolen or lost.  Think of your mobile device as a mini-computer that may store personal information such as access codes for your bank account, passwords for other websites, or information saved in your emails (which we will address later).

Emails can contain personal information; therefore, it is best to clear out your emails and do not save personal information in your inbox.  Many hackers have been able to access emails and gain information from the email strings.  There has been a rise in attempts to contact Investment Advisers by persons posing to be the client and trying to gain access to their funds based on information accessed through a person’s email.

Email attachments are another area of concern.  They are often intended to look legitimate (like invoices, etc.); however, these can also be opportunities for hackers to penetrate your computer. Pay close attention to who sent the email, the file name, etc.

Phishing emails are a scam utilized by hackers to try to obtain information from you.  They will often send you an email that indicates that you need to click somewhere in the email to confirm your account number.  This link will actually take you to another site where the hacker can gain access to information on your computer.  Delete these types of emails unless you are expecting an email from someone that needs to confirm information with you.

Credit card information that you receive in the mail, shred it.  Do not just throw it in the trash.  There have been cases where criminals have searched through the trash and utilized this information to obtain credit cards in the victim’s name.

Freeze your credit.  If you do not anticipate the need to create new credit accounts, then you can freeze your credit.  A credit freeze has no impact on your existing lines of credit but does not allow for any new credit to be secured in your name without your authorization. For more information on freezing your credit, check out http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.  It is important to freeze your credit with all three credit-reporting agencies.  You can unfreeze your credit, if needed.  There is a minimal charge for freezing and unfreezing your credit with each agency.  Every state is different regarding the requirements and fees; please check your state guidelines.

Equifax:  www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

Experian:  www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Transunion:  http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page

When searching on the internet for information, be careful about what websites you access. Let’s say, for example, you want to search for something to buy on Amazon.  If you type Amazon in your browser (Internet explorer, Firefox or Google to name a few), then several websites may come up with your search.  Find the link that is the direct website for Amazon. It is advisable to avoid the websites that have Ad in front of them. These websites often have viruses attached to the website that can be potentially dangerous to your computer. 

Use a good firewall/virus protection on your computer.  Be sure to update your virus protection annually. If your computer begins perform strange actions, run a scan, and if a virus is detected, it may be wise to contact an Information Technology consultant to make sure the virus is removed.

Due to the increased risk of criminals targeting clients of Investment Advisers, many custodians such as Charles Schwab and Pershing have incorporated additional security requirements. Therefore, you may experience some additional requirements regarding the safeguarding of your information or money movement requests. We are all working together to assure the safety of your information.

We hope that these tips will assist you with safe internet usage. We want to partner with you to minimize internet security risks. If your email is compromised, please notify us immediately so that we can implement additional security measures. In addition, if you need to change your email address we will be requiring that email address changes are verified verbally. Please feel free to contact us should you have any questions or if we may assist you in any way.

 

[1] Data Breach Events and the US Population, The Copper River Group, February 23, 2015.  www.copperrivergroup.com/data-breach-report

 

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