Internet security is something that we, as VAs and individuals, need to be on the ball about. As VAs, we have systems and procedures in place to protect our client’s passwords and personal information etc, including the likes of LastPass and DashLane. With GDPR implementation so high on our agendas, we’re all busy learning, understanding and putting additional systems and processes in place, to ensure we’re compliant by May.

But if we’re all so aware of the security and safety of our client’s information – why are we potentially putting our own information at risk online?

It’s not very often that I go off into full on rant mode, but this is one area that I do get incredibly grumpy about. The measures we use to protect our own personal information tend to fall short, when compared to that of our clients. And what makes it worse, they tend to fall by the wayside altogether, when it comes to social media and our online interactions!

Fun (personal information) quizzes

Fraudsters are rife online and social media is no exception. The majority (if not all) of those fraudsters know – our passwords tend to comprise of things we easily remember. Things like our street name, our first pet, our place of birth, the last three digits of our phone number etc.

Things that make great shareable, fun games, quizzes and engagement questions on social media!

I’m not saying every quiz and question online is part of a fraudsters paradise, but please take a moment to think about whether you want to be sharing personal information online.

Posting our whereabouts for the general public to see

I know this one isn’t directly related to just staying safe online, but it’s one we do need to consider, as it’s commonly posted on social media. When we go on holiday how many of us try hard to make the house looked lived in? We set up timers to turn the lights on and off, get a neighbour or relative to pop in and open the curtains and take in the mail each day, just to ensure that it looks like there’s always someone home.

But we have no qualms about broadcasting our travel plans as our status!

If you’re going to be away for a while and want to share your excitement with your friends, make sure you’re using the right privacy settings online to hide it from those you don’t want to see it.

Phishing and emails

We all like to think that we’d recognise a bogus email but many of us wouldn’t. They’re designed to look genuine, complete with help links and the real addresses of the companies they’re portraying.

As a rule of thumb, no legitimate company would ask you for personal information via email. If you’re given a link to go to, hover over it and read the actual URL of the link, to check it matches the company – if in doubt, bypass the link altogether and go through the standard URL you usually use, before navigating to the relevant section you need.

Oh, and there is no Nigerian resident struggling to access bank funds, willing to give you thousands to help him, no company wanting to give you free goods to test drive, and no, you haven’t won a sweepstake that only requires you to make a payment to access your prize!  (Sorry to my Nigerian Clients – but some people give your country a really bad reputation.)

What you can do, to stay safe online

We all know strong passwords are sensible, as is having up-to-date software and protecting your devices with internet security and firewalls. However, here’s some useful tips to protecting yourself online:

  • Keep your personal information, personal. Clients don’t need to know your home address, unless this is your trading address, your marital status or your year of birth.
  • Update your privacy settings on the different social media platforms.
  • Be mindful of what you’re posting. From holiday dates and flight tickets, through to photographs of your house, ensure you examine the entire photo for personal information you’re giving away (such as your car registration number, your house number, date of birth etc).
  • Check all purchases are going through a secure site – and check their privacy policy over how they handle personal information.
  • Search your name and company name. Use search engines such as Google to search for yourself, to systematically check that someone isn’t bogusly using your details to set up fake accounts etc.

We like to think we wouldn’t fall for internet scams, but it isn’t just scams we need to worry about. By following the tips above, you’ll help minimise the risks to yourself and your personal information, ensuring that you’re doing all you can, to protect your own information as much as you would your clients.

What are your thoughts around internet security and staying safe online? Do you think we pay enough attention to it or is it something we get lulled into a false sense of security with? Why not share your thoughts around internet security and staying safe online – along with your top security no no’s – in the comments box below!