How can we protect ourselves? What is the best way to protect from identity theft online?
Before we dive deeper into solutions here is a but about information, how it is used to illustrate some of the key points of use that can be vulnerable.
Your Information Online: How it is Used and Stored
Since it is harder to live a life off the grid these days and still have the basic amenities needed to live, your personal information is used for all kinds of purposes.
Any and all organizations, companies, institutions, and governments have databases with specific processes in place for security. This means conducting business with you as one of their customers, can be a protected and secure experience as possible.
Transactions processed online have one or more sets of regulations in place. This means a baseline standard for security for the people using services and for the organizations providing those services. This provides protection from identity theft online.
Regulations and the regulating bodies for some of these include;
PCI Compliance for online transactions – These folks regulate any cart process for when you make any type of online purchase.
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) – Passed in 1996, HIPAA was created to provide security and privacy for patient information.
Ever wonder why you have to sign off on so many forms at a doctor’s office?
HIPAA is why. Permissions for specifically expressed uses of your information have to be granted prior to a healthcare professional being able to access and use your information to provide treatment.
FERPA (Family Educational rights and Privacy Act) – Designed to protect personal and family information for students and families. This act has taken elements from HIPAA and applied them to the set of standards for educational information.
What, Where and How Your Personal Information is Used Online:
- Home – Whether you own or rent
- Utilities – Many utility providers have online tools for bill paying, service and account management
- Communications – Cell phone providers use your information electronically
- Identity – Driver’s Licenses, Passports, Business Licenses, Registering a Company, Professional Licenses etc. all use online resources
- Financial – Banks, Savings, Retirement, Investment Companies all use your information in an online format
- Healthcare – Insurance, health savings, healthcare institutions and providers utilize your information in an online format
- Education – Your information and your child’s all have and use your information through an online venue for ongoing education needs. Colleges and Universities also use processes which are nearly all online from application to graduation.
- Personal Consumption – From Groceries to Movie tickets to auto repairs there are very few things you cannot arrange for, purchase or schedule online. Many of those tools will require payment details which have identity validating components.
With all of these tools what is needed the most to give me the most benefit with the least amount of risk?
Online Protection from Identity Theft, Stalking and Misuse of Personal Information: Where do you begin?
To properly asses what the protection needs are for information you have to have an excellent awareness of how you use your information to start with.
For example – If you make more transactions via your cell phone, personal laptop or fixed desktop (there is even a difference if the computers are provided by an employer or they are personally owned. In either event there are ways to address online protection of your personal information.
- For folks using employer provided laptops or computer equipment, they will often have software security already installed and is many cases some sort of monitoring tools to keep an eye on what happens on company devices. If you do have any security issues on a company owned device (cell phone, laptop, desktop, etc.) just report it to your boss or IT department.
The solutions we recommend are ideal for personally owned devices. Since security software can vary just like any other software we cannot guarantee there won’t be conflict if used on a company owned device.
Point of Connection: How Your Personal Information is Shared Online
Our recommended solutions relate to how your personally store and use information online. To look at that here is a bit more on the common points of access for internet use.
When you log on to anything involving Internet at work 99% of the time you will be using a work based network. This will allow your employer to track activity and make sure the connection is safe.
This also ensures no scary stuff shows up on computers. This may also mean that certain web sites and social networks are blocked or off limits due to increased security risks.
ANY device you have that can access the Internet can create its own network. SmartPhones, laptops, personal desktops and vehicles all fall into this category.
Cell Phone / Smartphone Devices
These devices will have your personal details. This is based on account settings and service provider setup and requirements. Get to know them and use them to stay off unknown and public networks.
Most laptops create their own network through device settings and access other hotspots generated by other devices. The ability to connect with other devices via Wifi and Bluetooth is built in. Get to know these settings. Make sure you have enough security so as to limit unauthorized access on your device.
This will be nearly the same for desktops. If you are using a hard line to connect to the Internet (cable for young folks) and not connecting via Wifi, then turn off Wifi settings. The same for blue tooth (unless you are using Bluetooth to connect to printers and other network based devices)settings.
This one often get overlooked. I have heard numerous stories from folks who can’t figure out the weirdness on their phones. Those phones often connect with vehicle computers. Often folks never look to even change the base admin password on their vehicle computer.
Treat your Vehicle just like a laptop or desktop and change admin passwords and close down connection options you are not using.
Erase any account access you don’t recognize and make sure your vehicle gets updates (Vehicle updates will often if not all of the time happen automatically)
Tools to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft Online, Stalking and Misuse of Personal Information Online
Now that you have context here are the tools we both use and recommend for protecting your personal information online.
There are literally 100s of these anti-malware, anti-spyware software tools available. These are just some of our favorites we have used extensively.
Most of these solutions are ‘cross device’ solutions. This means when you sign up you can add your devices to the same security solution. This also means the core access will likely be through a single email address. make sure you have a great password protecting that email account.
Anti-Malware and Anti-Spyware Software options
Avast – This is a personal favorite of mine. Avast has been around for quite some time.
Recent versions are very thorough for devices. They do not seem to slow down performance (though secure VPN might slow down your internet depending on your service).
However, you access the Avast site it will show optimal products based on the device you are using. Avast comes with generous FREE version as well as secure VPN and other optional tools.
AVG – Also a favorite of mine AVG has been around for years. With generous FREE tools and a scan tool to check for issues on the spot on any device, AVG is a great choice.
Bitdefender – This group has been around for over 17 years. They are more geared towards business and home offices. They have a full suite of tools to provide end to end coverage for your security needs.
McAfee – These guys have offered security software of all kinds for years.
McAfee used to be a bit cumbersome on devices but they have made great strides in creating light weight effective security solutions. McAfee will cover everything including: Smartphones, web sites, laptops, and desktops.
They offer flexible pricing with easy transfer tools for new devices
Webroot Security – A personal favorite of mine for networks, connection points and specific security needs (network admins will recognize the name).
Webroot is more geared to small business and software connections. They provide some of the best VPN connection services around.
Malware Bytes – I love these guys. Their software scan saved a device of mine a few years back, I even paid for the service and was so very glad I did. They provide protection from numerous angles. They even have an anti-ransome software to protect your data.
Norton – Ok, so I could not ignore these guys. Remember on older computers purchased at big box stores? They all came with Norton and it was an epic pain to get that off the devices?
Well, they have come a long way from those days with lighter weight more effective protection. Now, there is very little they don’t provide in terms of security solutions to protect your data online.
They have a wide variety of softwares and pricing plans. Something should work for your needs.
Use a VPN
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Manage Your Profile and Online Reputation
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And there you have it… A good start to navigating your way through the sea of solutions to protecting yourself from online stalking, identity theft and misuse of personal information online.
*Updated July 2021*