Firstly, our hearts are broken for the victims of the shooting at the Garlic Festival in California on Monday (one of whom was a six-year-old boy). These events accumulate to paint a picture of deep pain buried within our modern culture, and it’s important, in my opinion, that we never go numb to them.

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There’s no good way to move on from such a topic, but it is the nature of these things that we must, and so we do.

I had queued up the topic of online security for this week, and somehow it does seem pertinent.

Intrusions can feel like such a violation, and while there is no substantive comparison between personal and online security, the sense of violation is present in both.

It’s the sort of thing that is so easy to let slide, and allow your computer usage to proceed along in negative habits simply from inertia.

Well, let’s fix that, shall we? With so many of our sensitive financial, tax, and personal details now to be found (and stolen) online, we must see online security the same as locking the door of your car when you leave it in a public parking lot.

So, here are four things you can do right away.

Four Online Security Moves For West Michigan People Right Now

“Passwords are like underwear. Don’t leave them out where people can see them, change them regularly, and don’t loan ’em out.” -Chris Pirillo

Recently, Equifax FINALLY reached a $700 million deal as a result of their data breach in 2017. But even with the publicity of that breach, it’s alarming how many Americans still neglect steps toward cyber safety: changing passwords, backing up information and stopping “share location” features on mobile apps.

Let’s look at four other ways you can protect your personal, tax, and financial data this year.

1. Install Antivirus Software

One of the easiest steps you can take TODAY is downloading antivirus software on your computer. Antivirus software will scan your computer for malicious software (aka “malware”). Think of antivirus like the CIA for your computer — it will track down suspicious and potentially illegal activity on your computer.

To help, here is a list of the top-rated antivirus programs.

For Mac users:

For PC users:

Purchasing antivirus security is an investment in your tax and personal safety.

2. Firewall Installation

The definition of firewall: “a part of a computer system or network that is designed to block unauthorized access while permitting outward communication.”

If antivirus acts as the CIA for your computer, view firewall as a team of bodyguards who won’t let imposters access your data.

Your computer’s operating system might include firewall software. But you can take extra precaution with additional firewall protection. Check out a few options from Lifewire’s updated list of firewall security programs.

3. Back Up Your Data

Store important tax information on an external hard drive.

If you don’t take active steps like installing antivirus software or firewall protection, your information might be compromised. Unfortunately, we now live in an internet age where that happens every day.

But if you “insure” your data, you will be less devastated one day when/if a breach happens.

And we all realize that sometimes computers crash — an unfortunate reality that happens far too often. Store your personal tax info in folders that you can store on an external hard drive, then bring the hard drive to our meetings throughout the year. View your hard drive as a virtual, mobile “file cabinet” for all your important tax files.

Another option: purchase Dropbox Plus (or Professional), and change out your main document folders and shortcuts to use the ones that are synced with Dropbox. That way, ANY file you save will automatically be backed up to your Dropbox account.

Just keep that Dropbox password secure. 🙂

4. Take Password Precautions

Use complex passwords! It seems like a pain, but once you have a program like LastPass or 1Password in place, it becomes much more doable.

And don’t use the same password for all of your online accounts!

All of this really should be seen as common sense precaution.

Although you can download antivirus, set up firewalls, AND back up your info, know that nothing is 100% foolproof. We’re dealing with two realities here:

  1. Most West Michigan people live on the internet in some form or fashion, and a lot of their personal info is stored somewhere online.
  2. Hackers and scammers have gotten really good at using the internet to steal personal information.

So if you have yet to do so, make today the day you protect tax and personal information.

No one wants another Equifax situation (or worse) on their hands. But if it does, I want you to be in the clear. Please reach out if you would like to discuss more about keeping your information safe.

 

Warmly,

 

Ashley Forrest

(231) 747-7648

Forrest Tax & Accounting Services