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January 25, 2022

Tips for keeping your health information secure online

Adult Health Safety

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The start of a new year presents the perfect opportunity to kick some bad digital habits to the curb — particularly when it comes to protecting your online health information. Practices like changing your password regularly to something difficult for someone else to figure out can make all the difference in protecting your personal information. And with cyberattacks on the rise, securing your health information is more important than ever.

Protect Your Passwords

Your password is the key to unlocking your personal information. That’s why hackers want to get it, and why it’s so vital to protect it — especially the one you use to access your health care plan. Here are some tips you can follow to choose a strong password:

  1. Make it more than 12 characters, with a good mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols
  2. Avoid using your own personal information (like your birthday) or these most-used passwords
  3. Use something completely unique, even if you have to make up a new word
  4. Be sure not to use the same password you may use for other online accounts

In addition to using a strong password, you should also think about changing your password often, possibly every few months. Keep a list of your passwords in a safe place, like a locked filing cabinet. One place you should not keep a list of passwords is in your email account.

And never share your password with anyone, under any circumstance.

Don’t let apps and websites remember your password, and close out each online session when you’re finished. This helps keep your information protected if someone ever gets a physical hold of your phone or computer.

Beware of What You Share

When using social media, think carefully about what information you’re putting out there. According to Joseph Turow, Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, “Hackers looking to break into your private accounts could use any piece of information you share in a viral challenge.”

Scammers can get information like your high school or college, the year you graduated, your best friend’s name, and even your favorite color from the clothes you wear, all from a single posted picture from a class reunion. It may seem harmless when posting for your family and friends, but don’t assume posts or photos will be seen by a specific audience.

Consider changing the settings on your post so only a select audience can see the information and limit the public’s access. But the best way to protect yourself and information through social media is to not post anything that you don’t want to be made public.

Avoid Added Stress and Anxiety

One more reason to take extra precautions to protect your information online is that having personal information stolen can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.

According to a survey completed by the Identity Theft Resource Center, 85 percent of victims experienced sleep disruption, and 77 percent reported increased stress levels. What’s more, nearly 57 percent reported having aches, pains, headaches, and cramps as symptoms. In other words, a cyberattack or a breach of your security can have adverse effects on both your mental and physical well-being.

Practicing good online health and taking small steps like creating strong passwords and limiting the personal information you share on social media can offer big protection from hackers and reduce your risk of serious health issues.

This article was originally published on IBX Insights.

About Laura Rieben

As Deputy Privacy Officer for Independence Blue Cross (Independence), Laura Rieben leads and oversees the HIPAA compliance program and other privacy initiatives for Independence and numerous subsidiaries and affiliates, including AmeriHealth New Jersey. She develops and oversees organization-wide privacy training, incident response procedures, policy development, and data oversight initiatives. Additionally, her team investigates and responds to data privacy and security incidents impacting members, groups, and vendors. Prior to joining Independence, Ms. Rieben was a member of a law firm practice group uniquely dedicated to servicing organizations with data privacy crises, and she represented hundreds of organizations of every size and from every industry that suffered data security events. Outside of Independence, Laura is a wife and a mom and enjoys cooking and weight lifting.

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