Absolute® Software Corporation has released a list of best practices for consumers looking to protect and secure bank account information, identification numbers, and other sensitive data that is stored on their laptops, particularly during tax season.
“Tax season provides cyber-criminals with the perfect opportunity to gain access to the most valuable stolen goods on the market – personal data, including bank account information and social security numbers,” said Mark Grace, vice president of consumer business, Absolute Software. “Through our involvement in laptop theft investigations in 75 countries, we’ve seen countless cases where stolen information was used to open credit cards, withdraw money from bank accounts, or apply for loans. Given the type of information needed to file taxes online, there has never been a better time to make sure that the correct safety precautions are in place.”
With approximately 70 percent of individuals filing tax returns online in 2010 according to the IRS, Absolute recommends that consumers adopt the following security best practices to ensure that personal information stored on computers is protected well beyond this year’s April 30th (18th in the USA) tax filing deadline:
- Protect against phishing attacks – Large companies like Target, Citi, and countless others impacted by the recent Epsilon breach have sent emails to consumers, notifying them of their official policies for collecting personal information. Government agencies have been impacted by phishing threats as well. To help educate consumers on the ways that it collects information from filers, the Canada Revenue Agency offers this PDF on protecting yourself, and the IRS lists current procedures on its website. Becoming familiar with these policies and being alert to suspicious emails is key to preventing the disclosure of personal and/or financial information to malicious sources.
- Become a fan of document encryption – If confidential information or personal documentation is stored on a laptop, such as a PDF of a tax return, document encryption is an effective security measure. With many advanced tools available on the market today, consumers can easily protect, control access to, and track documents that are stored on or sent from computers.
- Always use a secure Internet connection – Even after tax returns are processed, information related to returns is often stored on the device used to file the paperwork electronically. Taking that same device to an airport or local coffee shop and connecting to an open network creates an opportunity for an experienced hacker to easily gain access to sensitive data.
- Run virus and/or malware scans often – Not all virus protection programs come with settings that allow for continuous scanning and threat removal. Ensuring that anti-virus software is up to date and system scans are done on a daily basis will help to identify and mitigate new threats that a system has been exposed to. It is also beneficial to complete these scans prior to online banking, shopping or bill-paying.
- Know where devices are most vulnerable – Despite taking precautions to protect against hackers and other malicious sources online, the reality is that laptops (and the data stored on them) are still vulnerable to physical theft. Based on LoJack® for Laptops customer reports filed to the Absolute Theft Recovery Team, laptops are most likely to be stolen while at school or home, where they are used most frequently. Taking proper precautions to protect not only the devices themselves but the data as well is critical.
Security best practices combined with a complete software solution that offers remote device protection allows consumers to secure data from all angles. LoJack for Laptops by Absolute Software gives users the confidence that their laptops and information are protected should theft occur. LoJack for Laptops is a software-based theft recovery service that helps users remotely lock, delete, locate and recover stolen devices and the data contained within. With the technology in place, personal information remains protected even when it’s in the wrong hands, allowing users to avoid costly hardware replacements and the fear of identity theft.
For last-minute tax e-filers, Absolute is offering H&R Block at Home Basic Software for free (until April 15th 2011) with the purchase of LoJack for Laptops Premium. Computer owners interested in taking advantage of this offer can do so by visiting the site.