Start the new year, and new decade, by making your slice of the internet more secure –

TORONTO In a year that saw companies such as TransUnion, Facebook and Desjardins urge their Canadian users to change their passwords and monitor their financial accounts due to data breaches, its never been more important to safeguardyour personal information.

The crucial part, however, is to actually take steps to make your personal data less vulnerable to cybercriminals.

Thats really what cyber hygiene is all about, said Adrian White, director of the financial crimes division at the Canadian Bankers Association.

You want to make sure you minimize the risks by doing things on a regular basis that keep you safe from these kinds of threats in the criminal space.

The start of a new year, and (by most accounts) the start of a fresh new decade, presents an excellent nudge to review digital passwords and take othersteps to protect yourself and your finances online.

Taking action is increasingly important amid a risingnumber of major data breaches,leavingmore sensitive datavulnerable tocriminals who find devious new ways to put it all touse.

As we move into 2020, people have less and less control over the security and privacy of their personal information, said Claudiu Popa, cybersecurity expert and CEO of Informatica Corp.

With so much out of your hands, its important to keep control of the key points of entry for your personal online accounts.

First and foremost is updating your passwords, those jumbles of characters that youve been haphazardly managing since you went online. Its time to create a system that will carry you through the next decade with greater safety and peace of mind.

One of the best ways to create a secure password is to think of a phrase, and then use the first letter of each word with some numbers and symbols mixed in asthe password.The full phrase can also be used if it is easier to remember, with some added random bits toadd security.

Ive stopped calling them passwords, I call them passphrases, said Popa.

Because the emphasis is on the most important attribute of passwords, which is length. The longer they are, the more useful they are.

Better yet, use a password manager, which can create complex passwords and them remembers them so you dont have to. There are a wide variety out there, including some quite functional free versions from providers like LastPass, KeePass, and Dashlane.

The sooner you get comfortable with a password database the better, said Popa.

Next is your email,which isthe way you access all those accounts whereyouve forgotten your password because you dont have a system or password manager in place.

You should keep your primary email linked to online banking and other important accounts secure by only giving it out when necessary. Have a second email for less important accounts that dont store personal data, and consider using disposable accounts when possible, said Popa.

A lot of people just constantly give out their real, their almost permanent, their long-term personal email address because they dont know how to get a disposable one.

Thereare plentyof online services that let you set up a quick email address to satisfy those sites that demand an address when you dont feel you need to give one.

And while youre considering whether an email is needed, expand thatassessmentto any other informationasked ofyou, whether it be a request for youremail address at the big box store or a social insurance number when applying for a credit card.

The less information you give out, whether to companies or to the general public onsocial media,the lower thechances it will fall into the wrong hands.

Other important steps to stayingsecure, like keeping programs updated,checking in onyour online financial accounts, being wary of what youre connecting your devices to (especially public wifi), and to generally keep a skeptical eye on everything online.

With these two mainareas more secureyou can venture out a little more confidently in the new year.

Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press

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Start the new year, and new decade, by making your slice of the internet more secure -

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