Helping you balance your online life

Jan 22nd


The Age of Data Breaches- Part 1: Protect online information

Protect your information online

Anthem, Home Depot, LivingSocial, Sony, Target & TJ Maxx. These prominent companies suffered major data breaches that compromised sensitive customer information. Does this news stop us from shopping and banking online? If you haven't taken the proper precautions, you risk your personal information, which could include your social security number, name, address, passwords and credit card data, landing in the wrong hands during the next data breach.

Data Breach

Before you swear off entering any of your information online ever again, learn how to protect your sensitive data. We've compiled the best practices below to give you an extra layer of security. AOL also has you covered with a comprehensive suite of security products to help protect your identity, information and more.

Five ways you can help keep your data safe:

1. Create strong, distinct passwords across all your accounts.
Your first defense against online hacking and identity theft is to create strong passwords that are different for each of your online accounts-from email to banking, online bill payment and even social networking sites. At AOL, we suggest that your password consist of 6 to 16 characters using a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters (e.g., @ and &). We also advise never telling anyone your password. For added protection, you can also use a program like IDVault to encrypt and store all of your online account information.

2. Use antivirus software.
Antivirus software will detect, block and remove malicious software like viruses, spyware and malware that has been downloaded to your computer unbeknownst to you. Secure your computer and your personal information by using trusted antivirus software, like McAfee or Norton 360.

3. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
We love taking our devices everywhere we go-coffee shops, airports, hotels, restaurants. When out and about, it's tempting to sign on to free public WiFi. The disadvantage to this is that you expose your information to any hacker using the same public WiFi network. Secure your devices from hackers on public WiFi by downloading a VPN like Private WiFi. VPN software encrypts and decrypts data that you send or receive online, preventing hackers from accessing your sensitive information.

4. Add an extra layer of security to your devices.
Antivirus software is crucial to help block viruses and malware, but it won't be enough to cover every type of cyber attack by itself. Add another layer of security to your devices to prevent and remove more advanced threats including keyloggers, worms and hijackers. Products like SUPERAntiSpyware and Tech Fortress are designed to complement your antivirus software.

5. Sign up for identity theft protection services.
Identity theft protection services typically monitor your personal information, including requests for new accounts, credit checks and loan applications in your name. Some companies can also assist in monitoring your online identity and reputation. AOL provides quality services like LifeLock, MyReputation Discovery and MyPrivacy and a number of similar services are available online.

Now that you know some general ways to keep your data safe on your devices, check out The Age of Data Breaches Part 2 to learn more about keeping your data safe while shopping - in stores or online.