I've just returned from my annual pilgrimage to the AICPA PFP Conference. This is a chance for me to spend 3 intense days with my CPA financial planner colleagues and friends. I'm exhausted as always from the sheer volume of valuable information I absorbed. It was a complete tour of global economic and financial market issues, tax highlights, estate planning techniques, retirement planning concerns and opportunities, software tools, investment products, and likely most important; thoughts and instruction for improving listening and empathy. CPA's have good technical skills but it's no secret we can stand to improve our relationship skills.
One session by Bill Winterberg "Defend Against Hacking, Phishing, and Spoofing Attacks" had great information valuable to all of us. I'd like to share a few of his thoughts that you can implement right now to protect yourself from the attempts of those eager to steal your personal information and much more if they can.
1. First and most important is to use strong passwords. Length is strength! Bill suggests a string of at least 4 unrelated words. You can likely remember these words without writing them down. Since it's best to use a different password for each website, Bill also suggests using a password manager such as Robo Form or LastPass.
2. Always lock your computer and mobile devices. If you have an iPhone and or iPad opt for the longer 8 digit password. Be very very careful using public WiFi networks in cafes and hotels.
3. Take a photo of your business card and use as your lock screen background. If you misplace your phone, the finder will have your contact information. And don't forget to activate the Remote Wipe feature. You may even want to practice using the feature (of course don't actually wipe your phone clean)
4. If you email sensitive data use encryption. Or forget email all together for sensitive documents and use something like ShareFile, Box, or SecureDrawer.
5. Be suspicious of all email that requires urgency and requests you to click through to another site or download something. Don't do it. These are very often phishing emails. Navigate to the site yourself or if the email is from your bank call to verify the email. Your bank or the IRS will never email asking you to reply with personal information.
6. Be suspicious of phone calls requesting your personal information or suggesting there is a problem with your computer and you should down load a patch. Ask for the customer service number and call back to verify. Even better, get the customer service number yourself as an independent check.
7. If you see a flash drive in the parking lot, do NOT pick it up and install in your computer. It could very well be planted there waiting for the curious.
8. And finally, if your computer is hacked immediately turn it off and disconnect from the internet. You can report the incident to www.ic3.gov the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
It was a great conference and this valuable information from Bill Winterberg is just one example of the wealth of important information that traveled home with me so I can do a better job helping you with your financial questions.
Have a great weekend,