Secure your Digital Footprint
     It seems that we are reminded daily that there are bad actors trying to access personal identifying information.  From the Equifax scandal, to Yahoo Mail, Anthem, and OPM, it has never been more important to have a secure digital footprint.  It's never been more important and it's never been more difficult.  The average user had 90 online accounts in 2015, and that number is expected to continue to rise.  Here are some interesting statistics:
     Because we are forced to register and create accounts at these locations, many resort to using the same password and similar usernames they can remember in order to access their information.  This is not secure.  Some try to change it up and store their login information in a notebook, carry in their purse, or keep on a scratch sheet of paper at the house.  These methods are not secure and also create challenges for the surviving spouse.  In addition to the struggle of keeping the stored information secure, you also have to remember to keep it updated.  This is increasingly difficult as websites can force password changes as frequently as every 90 days.  It's pretty easy to see how 90 passwords changed every 90 days would be an impossible task to keep in order and up-to-date.  The study above indicates that consumers forget an average of 37 passwords per year.  This poses a significant problem for surviving spouses and family members.  The "forgot password" link typically sends a notification to your cell phone or email.  How do you access that information if you don't have the iPhone password or email password stored and updated?
Easy steps to protect your security:
  1. Make sure to change your username and password of your home Wi-Fi network.  Many never change the default password which opens your house to security threats.
  2. Purchase quality antivirus software and make sure that it is updated and that you have routine scans scheduled (free antivirus software is not as reliable).
  3. Make sure operating systems (OS, Windows, IOS, Android) are up-to-date.
  4. Set up multi-factor identification when possible.
  5. Create a complex phone password.
  6. Create complex passwords and usernames for every site.
  7. Avoid using publicly available information as your username and password - information that can easily be found on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
     In addition to these steps, consider using a password manager which will store your family passwords securely and help you generate secure usernames and passwords.  The benefit of using a password manager is that your information will be complex and unique to each individual website.  This will help eliminate the redundancy that most consumers have when accessing different websites and prevent the use of publically available information.  Here are some trusted password managers:  
  1. LastPass:
  2. Sticky Password:
  3. RoboForm:
Your anti-virus (paid solution only) may also come with a password manager, which would be appropriate.
     It's not fun but it's important.  Take the steps to secure your digital footprint and make sure that your spouse or power of attorney can access critical information in a time of need.  Finally, check your profiles on the important websites and ensure that your spouse's information is listed for secondary emails, phone numbers, and the like.
* Mason & Associates, LLC does not endorse individual products or websites listed.      Mason & Associates, LLC will not be held liable for issues associated with password    management tools or security breaches. *
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Michael R. Mason, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, Kenneth T. Mason, RICP®, and John M. Mason, CFP® offer securities & advisory services through Centaurus Financial, Inc., Member FINRA and SIPC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Mason & Associates, LLC and Centaurus Financial, Inc. are not affiliated companies. This is not an offer to sell securities, which may be done only after proper delivery of a prospectus and client suitability is reviewed and determined. Information relating to securities is intended for use by individuals residing in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

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