This article originally appeared on my SMB Tech Advice Blog...
Now that we are a little over a week into 2012, it is time to discuss a few things that I usually have all of my clients revisit every year - at least. It is no secret that the number of hacking attempts and identity theft in general are on the rise. There are a handful of things that you can do to help protect yourself from both of these, and most of them require little more than your time and attention.
The single most important thing I advise my clients to do in order to prevent being hacked or otherwise digitally frauded is to change your passwords often (at least once a year) and make them complex. Making a complex password is actually a simple thing. Remembering that password, however, is the challenging part. There are numerous utilities and applications out there that help with this as well. A good rule of thumb for password complexity is to use more than 6 characters, both upper and lower case letters, a few symbols, and make sure your password is not something that can be found in a dictionary. I will slide in a small recommendation here that I believe will help everyone in huge ways. Use words or phrases that are motivational as part of the password so that every time you type it, you are reminded of something positive. For instance, DoubleS@1es!! could remind you of your yearly goal to double sales from last year. AlwaysBN3tw0rk1ng!! could remind you to network at every opportunity you get.
Since it is 2012, make this year's passwords especially motivating since this could be our last year on the planet! If we happen to roll on past December 21, 2012, at least you spent the year working in a super positive mode, and that may pay off huge in 2013.
With passwords taken care of, the next two most important things on the list are to make sure your system updates (Windows Updates, Apple Software Updates) are all current and that your anti-virus is also updated. These two things close many holes that hackers can use to get into your systems and steal confidential information.
My last recommendation does actually cost some money, but it is vitally important and also frequently overlooked: the technologically advanced paper shredder. I can't tell you how many people do not have a paper shredder or use a paper shredding service. Make sure you get one that does cross-cut or confetti shredding, not just the strips. You want to make it as hard as possible for someone to reconstruct the documents you are attempting to destroy. More expensive shredders can also shred credit cards and CDs/DVDs that may contain sensitive information. I shred everything as I am semi-paranoid about these types of things, but at the very least, you should shred all personal, financial and business documents that you would otherwise throw away. You can also shred anything that has your name and address on it for that extra layer of security.
I hope these tips help you in 2012, and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section. Feel free to share this with anyone you think may benefit.