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The new BFFs: Retirement Security and Information Security

OCT. 18, 2018

October 21 – 27 is National Retirement Security Week, a national effort to raise awareness about the importance of saving for retirement. Traditionally, this provides opportunity for advisors to check in with clients to help determine if they are on track to meet their retirement goals. However, October is also Cybersecurity Awareness month, which provides a lesser known opportunity for advisors to expand the concept of retirement security beyond the client’s personal retirement goals to the protection of their personal information.

This is especially important because nearly three quarters of Americans have fallen victim to some type of cybercrime.1 In recent years, an average of 4 in 10 people have received a notice that their personal information had been compromised, had an account hacked and/or had a password stolen. Perhaps that’s why 8 in 10 people say they are worried about their online security.2

Given the need to help clients feel more confident about their online security, here are three ways you can help improve your clients’ cybersecurity, especially as it relates to their retirement nest egg:

Encourage clients to create online retirement accounts

This may seem counterintuitive, but creating an account for online access has the potential to decrease the risk of a cybersecurity. How? Well, many clients may feel as though the best protection against being hacked would be to avoid setting up an online account in the first place. Unfortunately, if the client doesn’t set up an account, they are unintentionally exposing themselves to risk by leaving the door open for a hacker to gather information from other sources and set one up for the client, providing direct access to their account.

In this case, a good defense is to go on offense. Encourage clients to protect their retirement security by creating an account for online access before hackers do.

Protect retirement accounts with strong passwords

If the client has set up their online account, they’ll need a strong password. Almost every login requires a password: bank accounts, shopping accounts, smartphones, email access, etc. Most people have more passwords than they can keep track of, so they tend to choose simple, easy-to-remember ones. However, these passwords tend to be easy for cyber thieves to crack.

Here are some tips for creating strong and safe passwords:

  • Create a unique, long and complex password
  • Don’t include dictionary words in your password
  • Combine numbers, symbols, lowercase and uppercase letters
  • Don’t share your password with others
  • Use different passwords for different services
  • Store your password securely
  • Frequently update your security software, operating system, and web browser

Be secure online and shop carefully

Once set up with an account and password, your clients will still need to be vigilant when completing tasks online. Here are some best practices you can recommend clients keep top of mind:

  • Vary usernames. Your username is your “first password.” Every time you create a new online account, give yourself a new username.
  • Update software automatically. This will help ensure your system gets the latest updates as soon as they’re released.
  • Enable screen locking on your devices. Many devices offer security features which may allow you to remotely lock them or even erase all data if it is lost or stolen.
  • Log out and close your browsing windows. Doing so reduces the possibility of unauthorized use of an already logged-on account.
  • Consider the information you share on social media sites. Review the social media site’s privacy and security settings to control who can see your profile.
  • Look for “https” in the web address. “Https” is generally more secure than “http.” Avoid financial transactions on “http” sites.
  • Avoid public computers. Thieves install keystroke tracking software on library or hotel lounge computers to steal usernames and passwords.
  • Know your surroundings. Limit your use of financial apps when you’re where people can easily look over your shoulder and see your inputs or information.

While cybersecurity might not be something your clients associate with their retirement security, you can help them understand the risks and associated actions they can take to help protect themselves.