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Are hackers targeting your computer? 3 things you must do to protect yourself

Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 17:06:03-05

More personal information is being exposed in online hacks and data breaches. The massive Solar Winds breach being just the latest.

Are you protected for the year ahead?

Here are 3 things experts say you should do right now to protect yourself and your personal information.

The most important protection is something you've likely heard about for years: STRENGTHEN PASSWORDS!

"Until we change from passwords to some other means of identification, they are still the keys to your kingdom," says Data Doctors Ken Colburn.

Colburn says passwords should be long and complex. He recommends 16 characters, yes 16!

"You can take your current 8-character password and double it and just by doing it you are going to massively increase security," Colburn says.

Passwords must include symbols, upper and lower-case letters and numbers. And they must be different for every account. Otherwise, if one is taken in a breach, you are vulnerable in all your accounts.

Consider a secure password manager app.

"It reduces your requirement to remember just one long secure password," Colburn says.

Password managers store passwords securely and then automatically fills them into login pages. You don't have to remember them, so your passwords can be long and complex.

Colburn recommends Lastpass, but there are many others that are free or low cost.

Also, for 2021, sign up for TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION FOR ALL ACCOUNTS.

Whenever someone tries signing into your account, a code is sent to your cell phone. It must be used to get in.

Another big concern this year, ransomware theft is expected to grow.

"If your home computer becomes a victim of ransomware, your docs, pictures, videos, tax returns whatever, they target 80 of your files, they go to your computer and it locks those down. It happens fairly quickly and happens in the background, you won't even know," Colburn says.

Then the thieves want you to pay them to access your accounts..

Colburn says you can avoid losing access to your information by ransomware, fire, flood or whatever damage, if you BACK UP IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS IN 3 LOCATIONS.

"You're going to have your computer, that's copy number one, you'll have a local backup hard drive, that's number 2, then you have the offsite backup, that's copy number 3," he says.

The offsite backup would be an online service that stores your information remotely for a fee.

Visit Consumer Reports story on storage services.

Also in 2021, never trust emails or text links. As Colburn puts it, treat them as guilty until proven innocent.

Click here for more information on protection from Data Doctors.