Posts filed under “Apprenticed Investor”
I am not the only one thinking about this. New York State Department of Financial Services issued a report on cybersecurity in the banking sector, where more than 150 organizations rely on third-party service providers for critical banking functions. The regulators want the banks to tighten security.
So should you.
We spend most of our time in financial markets looking at ways to deploy our capital: What assets to buy or sell, how much we should save for retirement, whether we should own more of these stocks and less of those bonds.
We don’t spend so much time thinking about the ways we can lose that money — to fraud and to common theft. We should be more vigilant, especially as we move our lives online, with digital access to our checking and savings accounts, our online portfolios, even our taxes.
It is impossible to make yourself hack-proof, but you can make yourself less vulnerable.
It all starts with some common-sense security steps. Three ways you probably can improve your existing practices: Develop better e-mail habits, beef up password security and (as always) remember that your behavior is the root of most of your problems.
Get your e-mail act together
Every day, your inbox fills with all manner of junk. Some of it is merely time-wasting nonsense, but let’s not forget about the really dangerous stuff: phishing schemes, malicious viruses and malware. It seems the only reprieve we get are those rare occasions when the main servers in Russia — a.k.a. Spambot Central — gets temporarily knocked off-line.
People have tried a variety of ways to tackle this: Filters, whitelists, e-mail verifiers and trusted ID services; disposable e-mail addresses from sites such as Mailinator; “junk” e-mail addresses from Hotmail, Yahoo or Google. And still the danger keeps coming.
I have a few tricks I use to keep the really nasty stuff under control, such as:
• View e-mail as plain text.
All of the bad links, embedded viruses and other malware go away when you select “view as plain text.” Sure, you lose all of the graphics and links, but you lose the threats as well.
• Create a primary e-mail address.
This is your main address — for colleagues, clients and peers. Never share this e-mail address. Don’t subscribe to anything using this address — no Internet mailing lists, no subscriptions, nada. Use this address alone for your finance- and business-related e-mails. Anything unrelated is junk; treat it that way. Block the domains of senders. Mark junk mail as junk.
• Use an e-mail forwarder.
I have been a big fan of Leemail.me. Instead of giving out my e-mail address, I use Leemail to auto-generate an address whenever I want to share my e-mail with an unfamiliar company. It forwards my e-mail from the company to me. When I want to shut that sender off, I flick a button.
Tracking the companies that share or sell your e-mail address is invaluable. The basic version of Leemail is, astonishingly, free, and the upgrade is only a few bucks a year.
• Don’t hit “unsubscribe”; get blacklisted instead.
There are a number of companies that provide e-mail services to third parties, shops such as Constant Contact, Vertical Response and iContact. They are the middlemen between businesses and consumers. And while they claim to be “opt-in only” and not spammers, in truth, they are subject to whatever bad behaviors their clients engage in. They all have become legal quasi-spammers.
On every e-mail these companies send, there is an unsubscribe button. NEVER CLICK THAT. When you do, you are not unsubscribing. Rather, you are verifying that your e-mail address is legitimate.
Instead, go to the company Web site and track down the customer service number. Call customer service and insist on having your e-mail or domain “blacklisted.” Thats the only way to ensure you will truly be unsubscribed. If the company refuses, file a Federal Trade Commission complaint.
If you were like I was five years ago, you had one simple password that you used for everything — Amazon, Facebook, Wall Street Journal — everywhere. This could’ve been disastrous. Now all passwords are different. Avoid the common errors, such as using birthdays or your kids’ names. Never use sequential numbers. And for goodness sake, don’t use “password” as your actual password.
Put all of your passwords on a document named something other than “My passwords.” I find burying passwords somewhere in a spreadsheet to be useful. Print out a copy and place it in your safety deposit box with other important papers.
I have said all too often that when it comes to investing, people are their own worst enemy. Behavioral problems are rife in security as well. Get into the practice of thinking about security, and soon it becomes second nature.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has gotten much more serious about personal financial data security. They have informed advisers and brokers that there is a duty to protect client data. When we set up our wealth-management practice, we put into place specific policies and procedures to protect clients:
● All sensitive information is sent by secure e-mail using a third party for encryption.
● We never e-mail Social Security numbers or account numbers or other private data via regular email.
● We went totally paperless. Our file cabinets are empty, everything is cloud based.
● Any documents that arrive are shredded, so even our outgoing garbage is secure with nothing usable to a thief.
Most of this is common sense. However, many people are still vulnerable. With smarts and a bit of awareness, you can make your financial assets much more secure.
We’re down to the Final Four in this year’s iteration of March Madness, also known as the national collegiate basketball tournament. Our earlier discussion of “The March Madness Theory of Investing“ didn’t sit well with some readers. The lessons we sussed out from the bracket-destroying results included home-country bias, how expert forecasts are about as good as those…Read More
Ritholtz: Admitting my 2014 mistakes Barry Ritholtz Washington Post, March 22, 2015 . “Pain + Reflection = Progress.” — Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates 2014 is behind us, and before the first quarter sneaks by, I am obligated to offer my annual admissions of error. One of my biggest peeves about finance is…Read More
We are down to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA’s men’s college basketball tournament, otherwise known as March Madness, which depending upon your perspective is either the most exciting month in sports or the American collegiate plantation system writ large. As is my wont, I seek out lessons in what I see, hunting for parallels in sports, politics, et…Read More
> My Sunday Washington Post Business Section column is out. Its time for my annual mea culpas from last year. I like what the editors did with the print version headline: As neither of us is infallible, here are my mea culpas from 2014. Here’s an excerpt from the column: I have been performing…Read More
Many metrics can be used to value markets. Which should you trust? Barry Ritholtz Washington Post, March 7 2015 “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” — John Kenneth Galbraith Let’s take a look…Read More
> This morning in my Sunday Washington Post Business Section column, we look at the issue of how expensive U.S. stocks are. There are several ways to determine this, fraught with the potential for error. If you want to determine how cheap or expensive the stock market is, I suggest three commandments to consider: ●Thou shalt…Read More
Much of the financial world is all abuzz over the 50th annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, released this past weekend.Financial journalists, amateur Buffett sleuths, Graham & Dodd aficionados and just about everyone I know spent some quality time this weekend with this letter. They are all trying to identify that one pearl of wisdom that…Read More
What do falling oil prices mean for the U.S. in the short and long term Barry Ritholtz Washington Post, February 14 2015 Since early 2014, the price of oil has plummeted. It peaked last year at $105 a barrel and is now about $50.The consumption and production of energy is a major…Read More
My Sunday Washington Post Business Section column is out, where we look at the impact of energy on the Economy. The print version had the full headline “The oil supply, energy demand and a rip-roaring U.S. dollar: What it means for your portfolio” while online had the shorter What do falling oil prices mean for…Read More