Don't Be Kanye--Keep Your Personal Data Safe

Matt Wright, CFA® |

Kanye West recently met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in a highly publicized event. While the general discussion was outside the scope of our role as wealth advocates, one incident during the meeting prompted us to once again remind everyone about the importance of keeping your personal information safe. Mr. West pulled out his iPhone and, on live TV, punched in a password of 000000 to access it.
While it's arguably better than having no password at all, it was clearly chosen for maximum convenience, not security. We can only hope that he is taking more precautions with other private information and his financial security. But are you doing your best to protect your personal information and your financial accounts? Here are a few tips to consider.

  • Use strong passwords. SplashData, an internet security firm, provides an annual list of the most common online passwords showing that "password" and "123456" have ranked at the top each year since 2011. Don't make this too easy for hackers! A strong password is generally longer than 8 characters, but consider that a minimum. And don't use the same password on multiple sites as the hacker needs to only crack one of your passwords and then reuse it on other sites you may use.
  • Consider using a password manager. A common reason why people use weak passwords is that we all have so many of them for different purposes that we can't keep track of them all. Consider using a password manager to reduce how much you need to remember, and it will allow to use unique passwords at different sites. The password manager allows you to create unique, long and very complicated passwords, without the need to remember.
  • Limit who you share information with. While it's unlikely you'll have an opportunity to give away your password on national TV, control who has access to your personal data. Access to your data should be locked (physically or electronically) at all times.
  • Watch out for Wi-Fi. Don't log into accounts on unsecure Wi-Fi connections (for safety essentially everything outside of your home should be considered unsecure). IF you do use an outside Wi-Fi, confirm with the location what the exact Wi-Fi name is. Unfortunately, there are a lot of hackers that are setting up Wi-Fi connections that sound very much like the legitimate Wi-Fi name. At home, set up a guest Wi-Fi network that visitors can use without being able to access your personal home network.
  • Be skeptical about emails and calls asking you to act urgently. Whether it's a call from the IRS demanding overdue tax payments or an email from a financial institution telling you to log in to your account to review something – STOP! If you are uncertain whether it's a legitimate contact, don't do anything right away. If it's possible that the IRS really does want to talk to you, they will mail you a letter so simply hang up. If you are prompted to log in to a financial account, don't click on a suspicious link (consider all links suspicious), instead open a new browser window and go to the website directly.

While it's hard to avoid all risks no matter what you do, taking some of the precautions above might greatly reduce your vulnerability.