Everyone should take steps to protect their personal and financial information from being stolen from your computer or smartphone. If you own a business or have a legal practice, protecting your information as well as the information about employees, clients, customers, suppliers and contractors should be a top priority because of the potential liability due to financial losses from such a computer breach.

The federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has several suggestions to help keep your personal or business computer more secure. One of the biggest dangers involves emails. Clicking on a link in the email or opening an attachment could result in a computer virus, malware or spyware infecting your system. DHS suggests:

  • If you think an email from a retailer is genuine go to its website and log on directly. Whatever notification or service the email offers, if it’s valid, it should be available through the website.

  • Retailers don’t normally send emails with attachments. When in doubt, delete it or contact the retailer to ask them if they sent the email and attachment.

Other practical tips include,

  • Don’t use passwords based on personal information. Although they’re easier to remember, they’re also easier for a hacker to guess or “crack” them.

  • Don’t use common words or phrases in passwords and change them frequently.

  • Misspelling a word in a password offers some protection, but a better way is relying on a series of words and by using memory techniques, or mnemonics, to help you remember it. Instead suing “hoops,” use “IlTpbb” for “[I] [l]ike [T]o [p]lay [b]asket[b]all.” Using lower and upper case letters adds more difficulty.

  • The best method for a secure password a random combination of numbers, special characters and lowercase and capital letters.

  • Don’t share passwords with anyone.

  • Purchase security software and keep your operating system, browser, security and other important software up to date. Security updates and patches should be offered regularly and free of charge.

  • Pay attention to website URLs. Malicious websites may use a variation of a trusted website URL or a different domain (.com instead of .net) to confuse computer users.

  • Set your email program to NOT automatically download attachments.

Nearly 70% of businesses experienced at least one hacking incident in the last year, according to a study of business risk managers released by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, reports Claims Journal. More than half of respondents (55%) state their company is not dedicating enough money or personnel to combat the latest hacking techniques.

Possible exposure by businesses due to a computer hack includes resulting damages by people and other businesses affected by a breach in security as well as the costs of a data loss, hiring someone to find the source of the breach, paying for credit monitoring for those impacted and paying for public relations experts to help salvage the company’s reputation.

The costs in time and money to do more to protect your computer and the computer system of your business or practice is a small investment when you consider that you’re reducing the chances of a very big loss.

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