Back in 2017, 64% of Americans had personally experienced a significant data breach and, yet, according to 2019 findings, again, by Pew Research, Americans are not any more educated about personal data security and privacy.

And, while a majority of Americans knew the basics of phishing scams and how website cookies work, they struggled to identify how two-factor authentication (2FA) or private browsing could help protect their data.

According to the research, “Only 24% of survey respondents, for example, knew that private browsing only hides browsing activity from other users of the same computer, and not from websites or third-party trackers.”

The need for more education, however, is greater than ever when you realize that half of those surveyed feel less secure than five years ago:

  • 41% of Americans have encountered fraudulent charges on their credit cards
  • 35% have received notices that some sensitive information (like an account number) had been compromised
  • 16% say that someone has taken over their email accounts
  • 13% say someone has taken over one of their social media accounts
  • 15% have received notices that their Social Security number had been compromised
  • 14% say that someone has attempted to take out loans or lines of credit in their name
  • 6% assume that someone has impersonated them to file fraudulent tax returns

What can be done to protect your personal privacy and financial data better?

Here are four simple best practices to up your cybersecurity protection.

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Best Practice #1: Use password management software:

Only 12% of internet users say that they ever use password management software themselves

  • Do not write down or share passwords with anyone
  • Use different passwords for your online accounts
  • The more complex the password, the better

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Best Practice #2: Be diligent about mobile security:

28% of smartphone owners report that they do not use a screen lock or other security features to access their phones.

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Best Practice #3: Conduct security-sensitive activities at home:

54% of online adults report that they utilize potentially insecure public Wi-Fi networks, and 20% use these networks to perform sensitive operations such as e-commerce or online banking.

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Best Practice #4: Activate two-step authentication for all sensitive accounts:

52% of online adults use two-step authentication on at least some of their online accounts. Ensure that all sensitive, shopping and financially-related accounts have this level of authentication. It does require extra time but is worth the effort.

Ensure that you, your family, and employees are taking personal data protection seriously. This is ground zero where so many costly breaches begin and can be thwarted.