Rowling & Associates Blog

Cybersecurity: How to Protect Your Online Accounts

by Sanda Ljubovic

Cybersecurity, or a safe online digital life, is becoming a top priority. It is increasingly important to learn about risks to your online data and how to keep yourself safe from viruses, spyware and hackers. Protecting your personal information online requires constant vigilance.

So, what can you do to help protect your accounts and safeguard your personal data?

There are many steps that the institutions you work with will take to protect your accounts. For example, client accounts at Schwab are protected in multiple ways, and Schwab offers a Security Guarantee. Shareholders Service Group (SSG) works only with advisors, ensuring that scammers cannot reach out, pretending to be clients to access secure data. Here at Rowling & Associates, we will never provide money movement instructions via email without requiring verbal confirmation with the client of the specific details.

With all that said, keeping personal and financial information secure is a partnership and there are steps you can take to protect your accounts. Here a couple of cybersecurity tips to help you keep your personal information safe and avoid any malicious online surprises.

Keep your hardware locked.

Set up your PC and mobile device to require a password when it wakes from sleep or boots up. Passwords should be different for different devices and should not be something that would be easy for a hacker to guess.

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall as well. This will make it harder for hackers or viruses to get into your computer and find your secure information.

Verify that the website you are on is safe.

Always verify that you are on a secure website. You can do this as easily as checking the URL to make sure the site begins with https rather than http. If a site has obvious typographical errors, or no evidence of security information or recognized symbols, avoid it. Only download information from sites that you know are trustworthy. For example, you should only download a Schwab application from the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store.

Be wise about Wi-Fi.

When using public computers or public Wi-Fi you are putting yourself at risk. Every time you hook your computer up to the Starbucks Wi-Fi, you are essentially allowing anyone else on that network to potentially view your data.

It’s definitely better to stay off of public Wi-Fi as much as possible, but if you do have to use it, be sure to clear the browser’s history and cookies before leaving. Browsing your favorite website is okay but logging into your accounts or doing anything that requires you to input confidential information such as a credit card number or a password, is risky. Do not ever accept software updates when connected to a public Wi-Fi.

Passwords are the keys to your kingdom.

Be cautious with your login credentials and passwords. Do not use personal information as part of your login ID such as birthdays or names. Change your passwords every 3-6 months and have a different one for each financial institution you use.

Schwab offers a voice ID service and it is highly recommended that you enroll for added protection when calling Schwab. Call 800-435-4000 to set this up. Schwab will also require verification at login as another important level of protection. You will have to confirm your identity with an access code when logging into the Schwab website.

SSG requires standard dual authentication in addition to entering your password when logging in from an unknown computer. Essentially, dual authentication requires you to use both your password and something you have on you to access your account. This is most commonly done with a phone. When you try to log in to the website from an unknown device, a code will be sent to your phone on record, which you will then use to log in either before or after entering your password. This extra layer of security makes it difficult for hackers to get all the pieces of information necessary to access your personal data.

Do not click!

This is perhaps the most important piece of cybersecurity advice we can give – avoid clicking on links or attachments. If you receive an urgent-sounding email asking you to click on the link in order to update personal information–do not! Even clicking on the link could potentially take you to a malicious website where malware can infect your computer. Instead of clicking on the links, go directly to the known website. If you are still in doubt, call the agency that sent you the email and inquire directly.

Remember, most of the institutions you work with will not send you links or attachments without prompting from you as the client. Here at R&A, we will never email clients instructions and/or paperwork for opening a new account without a prior conversation or discussion.

When it comes to cybersecurity, awareness is a valuable tool that will prevent you from becoming a victim.

The sad fact is that hackers will always be out there, looking for ways to access your personal data and accounts. Don’t let them! Keep in mind the cybersecurity tips offered in this article, and always be aware of what it is you are clicking on.