Have you noticed an unusual charge on your bank statement? Or has your credit rating changed significantly all of a sudden? Chances are you have become a target of a data breach. And there are many instances where you could experience data theft without even being aware of it. In fact, last year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report named data theft and cyberattacks among the top 5 risks facing the world.

Your personal information could be compromised in numerous ways and protecting it from hackers and criminals could be often done with simple yet essential measures. And this article will provide you with those critical steps you must take today to protect your personal accounts, documents, computers and mobile phones from unscrupulous individuals.

  1. Guard your accounts

Your public profile accounts could serve as a major source of personal information if left unguarded. From your Facebook and Twitter accounts to even the dating site profiles you have set up should be guarded against any unwanted data breaches.

Having the same or similar passwords across several accounts and using identifiable details such as your birthday or your child’s name are common mistakes made by many people. Therefore, remember to follow password best practices to guard your accounts and personal data. And ensure that you use a different password for each account.

According to research studies, 71% of data breaches are financially motivated. Therefore, the details of your bank accounts could be even more critical to protect. While online banking has provided us with a level of convenience unimaginable a few decades back, it has also created a level of risk that we need to be mindful of. And there are many ways these account details could be compromised. So setting up secure passwords is an essential first step to protect your hard-earned money. And avoid writing them down or sharing them.

There are also many scams and phishing attacks that could target your bank account details. Calls and emails impersonating banks and requesting for confirmation of account and password details have grown in numbers over the recent past. So, guard against them and never divulge confidential details in response to such emails or calls. Always choose to call back your bank to verify such requests. You can also use people’s search sites to run reverse lookups on any suspicious requests by using their email address or telephone number.

  1. Guard your confidential documents

How and where you store your confidential documents are critical factors to ensure their safety. Whether it’s supplier databases, customer details, marketing plans, patents, formulas or even your personal documents such as social security cards and medical records, they should all be kept well-guarded from data hackers and common criminals.

Share confidential data strictly on a need basis. Keep softcopy versions password protected and encrypted to guard them against hacking and phishing attacks.

Avoid leaving around hardcopy versions of confidential documents in places that anyone could access. Instead, keep them securely locked away in a safe. And if you need to get rid of any sensitive documents, avoid putting them in the trash together with your other waste. These can be easily accessed by anyone with malicious intent. Therefore, always use a paper shredder to dispose of confidential documents. And when it comes to your credit cards, keep them safely in your wallet and don’t leave them out of your sight.

Whether it’s softcopies or hardcopies, keep duplicates of sensitive documents safely stored in an alternative location. This will ensure that data can be recovered in case they are lost as a result of a breach.

  1. Computer and laptop security

Another way you could experience a data breach is through physical theft of your devices. Therefore, keep your computers and laptops password protected at all times.

Spyware and malware are common causes of data theft and could be downloaded onto your devices through an email attachment or from a malicious website that you have visited. So, using a good anti-virus guard is critical to protect your data. They can shield you from visiting unsecured websites and alert you of any suspicious attempts to infiltrate your device. And as a best practice, avoid downloading any documents from unknown sources. If you must do so for whatever reason, scan them first using your anti-virus software. In addition, always ensure that you have the latest versions of your anti-virus guard and remember to renew it every year.

There are often small details that could result in compromising your personal information. The documents you delete, for instance, could still be retrieved by anyone if left in the recycle bin. Therefore, be mindful of emptying the trash not only in your devices but also in your accounts such as your emails.

  1. Phone security

The mobile phone has become an absolute necessity for your daily functioning and could be storing a vast amount of your personal information. These can range from your contact lists and private messages to photos and even personal email accounts. Your phone can even be used to track your location, and therefore could end up placing you at immense risk if hacked or stolen. In fact, according to research, mobile phones are far more susceptible to phishing attacks and social engineering than other devices. But unfortunately, the safety and security of the mobile phone is something many people neglect and take for granted.

So, think twice the next time you pick up your phone. Be mindful of apps you download and the access permissions they request. You could be granting unnecessary access to your contacts, messages or the photo gallery to an app that could gather and share your personal details with third parties. They could even be using your data for malicious purposes.

Also, be cautious of which websites you visit and what documents you download onto your phone. These could lead to malicious hackings of your device unknown to you. And another common threat is clicked baits or links that are sent through text messages to dupe you into visiting malicious websites. These are designed to either download viruses into your phone or to mislead you into divulging your personal information.

If for any reason you deleted any of your important photos or videos, we’d suggest using a really good photo recovery software. Probably, something popular and trusted like Stellar Photo Recovery – it can recover deleted photos, videos, and audio files from all types of storage media which are lost due to deletion, corruption, formatting, virus, inaccessible drives, etc. This software is available for both Windows and Mac.

The bottom line is that a data breach can take place anytime and anywhere unknown to you. While you may not be able to avoid it one hundred percent of the time, you can still prevent the chances of it happening significantly by taking effective measures to protect yourself.

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