Protecting Your Data: Google Executive Offers Tips

A growing number of companies have been targeted by hackers who hope to get customers’ personal data and credit card numbers. While we hope companies are doing all they can to prevent these kinds of incidents, we consumers can also take security precautions to protect ourselves. Recently, Mark Risher, Google’s spam and online abuse chief, offered his top tips:

Keep your software updated
When hackers discover new ways to steal data, gadget and software companies usually work quickly to release fixes for those vulnerabilities. But it’s up to us to install those updates on all of our devices — phones, laptops or televisions — or set it so that updates occur automatically.

Don’t fall for “phishing” scams
Phishing occurs when users are tricked into submitting login credentials on a fake website, only to have that information sent to hackers instead. Risher says these cons are becoming more difficult to spot as hackers often just copy the exact online page you’re used to seeing and put it in a social context that’s misleading. Before entering any login data, Risher advises that you closely examine the URL, which will often display an address that’s slightly different than the website it’s imitating. The same is true of email phishing scams; tricksters will often use an email address that looks legitimate but may be a character off from a company’s actual email address.

Add recovery contact info to your accounts
If your account is compromised, companies will probably try to let you know. Add a phone number or an alternate email address so that companies have another way of verifying that the account is yours in case you’re prevented from logging in.

Don’t use the same password for multiple sites
This is a common issue because passwords are difficult to remember. Risher recommends using a password manager such as Last Pass or 1Password that will store passwords or even generate new unique passwords on your behalf each time you log in to a website.

Enable two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring another code in addition to your memorized password. That code can be sent to your smartphone via a text message or generated by an app. So even if a hacker has your username and password, without your smartphone (and the code), he or she won’t be able to access your account.