Security and Privacy
Security and privacy of your confidential information is important to you and to us at Northwestern Mutual. Know that we will never ask for your password, Social Security number, product or account numbers, or other personal information through text message or unsecured email. This information may be requested during a phone call with a Northwestern Mutual customer service representative or upon registering for online account access.
Northwestern Mutual is committed to safeguarding your personal and confidential information. We have provided some best practices that will help to enhance your security. Together we can work to protect what is most valuable to you.
Protect Your Account
Registering for online account access
- When you register for Northwestern Mutual online account access, we will require several pieces of personal information from you, possibly including your product number and/or Social Security number. This helps ensure that only you may register to access your own accounts.
- Avoid accessing your online accounts through publicly shared computers and Wi-Fi networks.
A strong password is important to protect your online accounts. When you are selecting a password, keep the following tips in mind:
- Choose a long password of at least 8 characters. Longer passwords are more secure.
- Include upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. This makes your password more difficult for someone to guess.
- Change passwords frequently.
- Consider using a password manager.
- Keep your password private.
- Do not use real names or your login name or any variation of it.
- Do not use Social Security numbers, words or numbers associated with easily attainable personal information, like birthdays, anniversaries, license plates, telephone numbers, or addresses.
- Do not use words from the dictionary.
- Do not use the same pattern for your passwords, such as smart1, smart2, etc.
- Do not write down your password or share your password with anyone else.
- Do not reuse passwords. Make sure you use different and unique passwords for all of your online accounts. Reusing a single password for multiple websites is never a good idea. If a cybercriminal obtains your password, they may try to use it on other websites.
Consider a password manager
Password management software, a virtual space that allows you to safely store your account usernames and passwords, can help simplify choosing and maintaining passwords for your online accounts. Make sure to keep your passwords updated within your password manager. Several password management applications are available for a variety of devices and operating systems. Check with a trusted technology expert to help you choose the appropriate password manager.
Stay Safe Online
Email hacking fraud
Email hacking occurs when a cybercriminal illegally gains access to an individual's email account. This allows the fraudster to read email messages and view the address book on the email account. Using this information, the cybercriminal (appearing to be the individual), contacts the individual's financial institutions via an email message and tries to obtain funds. Learn about how to protect yourself at Email Hacking Fraud.
- Never give your email address to anyone or any site that you do not trust.
- Never send personal or sensitive information in an unsecured email.
Identity theft occurs when someone wrongfully obtains another person's confidential information and uses that information, often for financial gain.
Victims of identity theft may find their financial health seriously impacted and can spend months or years correcting the situation.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides advice to minimize your risk of identity theft and offers assistance for victims of identity theft at FTC.gov/idtheft.
Credit monitoring to fight identify theft
Fight identity theft by monitoring and reviewing your credit reports regularly. AnnualCreditReport.com provides helpful information on where to obtain your free credit reports.
One of the most common ways cybercriminals trick their victims is through phishing. This occurs when a cybercriminal tries to either get the victim to reveal confidential information or installs malicious software (malware) on the victim's computer. A phishing attack can take many forms, although the most common is an email message.
Identifying phishing messages
Common phishing message characteristics and red flags include:
- Unsolicited email or attachments—Always regard unsolicited email or attachments as suspicious, even if the message appears to come from a known sender. The "From" address in emails can be easily faked. In addition, the sender's email account may have been hacked.
- Spoofing—Email spoofing refers to email messages that are sent with a forged sender address. The email is sent to LOOK like it is from known companies or people such as your "friend," "relative," or "co-worker" but the email is fake.
- If you receive an email asking for confidential information and demanding unusual or urgent action, be suspicious. Take action and call the sender directly, using contact information on record, to ask if they sent the email.
- Generic greetings—Phishing messages often contain generic, non-personalized greetings both in the subject line and the message. Some legitimate messages may contain generic greetings, but a generic greeting should raise suspicions. It's important to note, though, that a personalized greeting in and of itself does not guarantee that a message is legitimate.
- Urgent or threatening language—Many phishy messages contain urgent or threatening language. Phishers often try to manipulate people's emotions. Don't fall for that trick. Take the time to examine unsolicited messages carefully.
- Awkward grammar or spelling errors—Awkward grammar or spelling errors may be signs of phishy messages. However, don't assume that polished, professional-looking messages are necessarily legitimate.
- Tricky links—Always be suspicious of links in unsolicited messages. The web address displayed in the message can be easily faked.
- Never send personal or sensitive information in an unsecured (unencrypted) email.
- Never make a purchase from an unsolicited email. Not only can an email user fall prey to a potentially fraudulent sales scheme, but their email address may be added to email lists sold within the spamming community, further compounding the number of spam emails the user receives.
To learn more about phishing and handling phishing messages, see OnGuardOnline.gov/phishing.
Spam is defined as unwanted, commercial email.
What can you do to reduce spam emails?
If the volume of spam email is low, the easiest thing to do is simply delete the spam messages. Consider following these steps to prevent or reduce spam:
- It is okay to "unsubscribe" from something you signed up for. However, if the newsletter or email is unsolicited or suspicious, safely unsubscribe by going directly to the site through your browser, rather than clicking a link in the email.
- Never provide your email address on websites, newsgroup lists or other online public forums or any site you do not trust.
- If you opt-in (sign up) on a website to receive email marketing, deselect checked boxes that opt you in to receive additional "related" but possibly unwanted, commercial email.
- Check with your email providers (Gmail, Microsoft, Yahoo, others) to determine how to report an unsolicited message.
For additional information, refer to the FTC website.
Social media safety
Social media includes websites and mobile applications that allow you to stay connected with friends and family – but be careful what you share. Cybercriminals could use the confidential details that you share publicly to conduct identity theft. A few tips will help you stay secure on these sites:
- Most social media sites offer privacy settings and other tools to help you restrict who sees your content. Learn how these settings and tools work for each site, and be aware of any updates to how they work.
- Realize that cybercriminals can use social media to trick their victims. If a contest seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Links to the latest celebrity gossip or "shocking" pictures can lead to malicious software (malware) or sites designed to steal confidential information.
- Limit the information that you share online such as where you attend school, children's ages, details about your work or family or other personally identifiable information.
- Be careful what images you and your family are sharing, especially if you are on vacation and away from home. You could be alerting others that your home is unattended.
- Remember that any information you post online could be saved and accessed forever.
More information about social media safety is available at StaySafeOnline.org.
Keeping your kids safe online
Talking with your children about being smart and safe online is one of the best ways you can protect them from harm. Begin by talking early and often about what is acceptable online activity, learning from your children by having them show you what they do online, and staying calm and listening carefully if there is something online that makes them uncomfortable.
If you don't know where to start, you're not alone. Visit NetSmartz.org for more tips and discussion starters.
If you are wondering whether your child is being exposed to age-inappropriate materials, CommonSenseMedia.org provides ratings for a variety of items.
Children may become victims of cyber-bullying. Depending on the severity of the issue, contact the social media site, school officials, or law enforcement to report the incident. You may want to monitor your child's social media activity and review their friends list to ensure they are communicating responsibly.
Have your kids follow these tips to stay safe online. Instruct them:
- Never to post personally identifiable information about themselves such as address, phone, school, or email address.
- Not to tell anyone their usernames or passwords except for parents, guardians or teachers.
- Not to open emails from strangers.
- Never to arrange to meet someone in-person who they met online.
- That people are not always who they say they are.
- Not to click on pop-ups, even if they say that you will win a prize.
- That what you put online may never be truly private, and may stay online forever.
- That, if someone puts something online that makes them feel sad or scared, log off and tell someone – when in doubt, always ask a parent, guardian or teacher.
- And most important: Get off the computer and put down the phone – because nothing beats spending time with friends in-person.
Parental controls are available on most internet-enabled devices, like computers, smartphones, tablets, and gaming systems. When enabling parental controls, use age-appropriate settings to filter, monitor and block your child's activities. Work with a trusted technology expert if you have questions.
Secure Your Devices
Protect your computer from malicious software (malware) by installing and running up-to-date malware protection. A variety of options are available online or at local retail stores. Work with a trusted technology expert if you have questions.
To remain secure online, update your operating system (the system that manages the hardware and software on your computer and mobile devices) frequently. Consider activating automated updates if available. Apple, Google, Microsoft and other operating system vendors frequently update their operating systems. These updates may add functionality, increase security, and fix problems in existing software.
If you don't have a notification but want to check for software updates, search online for your device manufacturer and model number (example: AT&T Samsung "model" software update).
Be cautious when downloading applications (known as apps). Some apps may contain malware designed to steal your personal and financial information. Make sure that the updates or downloads come from the company that originally released the software. Safely download apps only from reputable, approved sites like Apple iTunes or Google Play.
To protect your privacy, review permissions at the time of installation or update to decide if you are comfortable granting access requested by that application.
Other applications such as Adobe Reader, iTunes and security software products also typically offer automatic update options. Turning on auto updates will ensure you always have the latest software version available. It's important to make sure you keep your applications updated to protect from vulnerabilities and increase functionality of services provided.
Using GPS on your mobile device
Your device's built-in global positioning system (GPS) locates and publishes information about your whereabouts. For example, applications like Facebook and Yelp allow you to "check in" at places using your mobile device, and then share your location on social networks.
Here are some tips to use GPS location services safely:
- Turn off GPS on your mobile device when you do not need it or only allow certain apps to use your location data. Refer to your mobile device manual for further instructions on how to adjust this feature.
- Know that what you share on one site may be linked to another site (such as Facebook and Twitter).
- Check the privacy settings on all your accounts. Make sure you are only sharing information with people you know.
- Remember when taking pictures with your mobile device that location information (known as geotagging) may be embedded in the photo.
For more information visit StaySafeOnline.org.
Physical security of mobile devices
Mobile devices include smartphones, tablets, laptops, cell phones, and other portable devices. They offer added convenience and flexibility. However, they do require additional protection. Treat your mobile devices as you would your wallet.
Consider the following best practices to keep your mobile devices secure:
- Always lock your screen when not in use. Locking your screen is a simple yet important thing you can do to ensure security on your mobile device, especially if it's lost or stolen.
- Beware of shoulder surfers – thieves who physically watch your onscreen activities to steal your confidential information or passwords. Pay attention to your surroundings and leave if you are uncomfortable.
- Never leave your mobile device unattended.
- If you are not able to keep your device with you, lock your mobile device in a secure location. If you need to leave your mobile device in your vehicle, lock it in the trunk out of sight; don’t leave it in the passenger compartment.
- Consider purchasing and using a cable lock to securely lock your laptop to immobile objects.
It is important to keep your web browsers up to date to correct any bugs or vulnerabilities that older versions may have. Download the latest version of your web browser. The following are examples of common web browsers:
- Internet Explorer
If your web browser supports automatic updating, consider turning on that feature to ensure you always have the latest version.
Wi-Fi allows you to wirelessly connect to the internet. The following tips can help you remain safe when you use Wi-Fi networks:
- Using a wireless network at home or using other internet enabled devices such as baby monitors, cameras, and thermostats is convenient, but leaving them unsecured is an opportunity for cybercriminals to hack in and discover sensitive information. Do not use any default settings or passwords provided by the manufacturer and make sure to add a unique passcode so that you and your family are the only ones accessing these devices.
- Realize that public Wi-Fi networks are not secure. Other people on the network may be able to view the information you send and receive unless that information is encrypted.
Web site security
- If you’re performing a transaction or sharing confidential information through a website, make sure the site begins with https:// to ensure that the information will be secure during the transmission between your browser and the web site.
- If a site begins with anything other than https://, your information may be visible to other people. Never communicate confidential information through those type of sites.
- It’s always best to go to a website via your saved favorites or by entering the website’s URL in your browser window. Clicking on a link to a website inside an email or on a pop-up that displays on your screen could take you to a malicious site.
- Always log out of your accounts when you are finished if you’re accessing those accounts from a computer that isn’t your own.
Managing Your Records and Information
Managing your records and information appropriately will help keep you organized and in control of your confidential information. Properly disposing of your records when you no longer need them will help protect your confidential information from falling into the wrong hands.
Records and information management
Government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission offer guidance on managing family and household records. Review the appropriate government agency's information to determine how long you should keep important documents. You should be securely disposing of confidential information on a regular basis.
Properly disposing of your records will help prevent criminals sorting through your trash to locate your confidential information. Here are some tips for you to consider:
- Always shred your confidential information. Use a crosscut shredder that cuts the documents into small pieces.
- Shredders that cut documents into long spaghetti-like strands are not as secure. Properly motivated criminals can reconstruct those strands with enough effort.
- Shred DVDs, CDs, diskettes, tapes, and credit cards if possible. High-end shredders often have the capability to shred these items. Always confirm that a shredder can accommodate the items you want to shred.
- Before you sell a smartphone or mobile device, perform a factory reset to remove confidential information from the device.
- Use secure erase software to wipe, or electronically "shred," information on a personal computer's hard drive. At a minimum, take the hard drive out of a laptop or desktop computer before disposing of the old computer.
- Regularly delete emails from your Inbox and Deleted Items folder.
Northwestern Mutual Information Security and Privacy Safeguards
The security and privacy of clients' confidential information are important to Northwestern Mutual. The company takes its responsibility to protect this information seriously and uses technical, administrative, and physical controls to safeguard its data. The following are just some of the ways the company works to keep client information safe.
Northwestern Mutual uses layers of technical controls to protect its clients' information:
- Antivirus: The company uses antivirus solutions to protect against malicious code that could compromise client information or damage company systems.
- Email filtering: The company actively filters incoming email messages for phishing and spam attacks.
- Encryption: The company encrypts client information accessed through online account access services to prevent unauthorized users from viewing that information. Company policies require client information stored on mobile devices used for business, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones, to be encrypted as well.
- Firewalls: The company stores client information on its internal network, which resides behind a corporate firewall designed to prevent unauthorized external parties from accessing that data.
- Fraudulent activity monitoring: The company monitors incoming email messages to help identify and prevent fraudulent financial requests.
- System activity monitoring: The company uses a variety of resources to monitor systems to identify suspicious activity. Intrusion detection systems and data leakage protection systems reduce the risk of incoming attacks and information loss.
Northwestern Mutual supplements its technical controls with processes, procedures, and policies to further protect its clients' information:
- Business need to know: Access to company systems is granted on a business need to know basis. Only those people who need access to a given system and its information to accomplish their job responsibilities receive that access.
- Change control: The company uses a change control process to help ensure all changes to company systems maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of those systems.
- Corporate governance: The company has a strong governance system with multiple committees supporting information protection initiatives.
- Cybersecurity threat simulations: The company conducts cybersecurity threat simulations to identify areas of program strength and opportunities for improvement.
- Incident response: The company maintains a well-defined computer security and privacy incident response program, designed to contain and resolve any incidents efficiently and effectively. The program is periodically reviewed and exercised to train and ensure preparation for events.
- Privacy: All new employees receive privacy training. In addition, an Enterprise Privacy team manages the privacy program for the company. Each department has a designated privacy liaison who also supports the privacy program.
- Internal and external IT auditors: The company's internal and external auditors regularly review and assess the company's information technology systems and operations.
- Policies and standards: The company maintains written policies and standards for information protection. These policies and standards provide the foundation and guidance for the company's information security, privacy, and risk management program.
- Records and information management and sanitization: The company maintains a records and information management program that manages the lifecycle of the company's information, including adherence to regulatory requirements and secure disposal of confidential information.
- Risk assessments: The company performs risk assessments during the development and acquisition of information systems to help ensure those systems include appropriate protection of client information.
- Security awareness: The company recognizes that end users are a critical component of an effective information security and risk management program. The company provides employees and financial representatives with security awareness and training, such as ongoing security awareness articles and events, training in company policies and standards, and simulated phishing exercises. Information to help clients protect themselves is also available on the company's corporate website.
- Separation of duties: The company separates specific job duties to prevent a conflict of interest when appropriate.
- Threat monitoring: The company works with internal teams and third-party industry security organizations to monitor its environment for existing and potential threats.
- User access reviews: The company regularly reviews user access to company systems to help ensure users maintain an appropriate level of access to those systems.
Northwestern Mutual also protects its clients' information from physical harm and theft:
- Building and data center physical security: The company controls physical access to its buildings, data centers, and other facilities. Restricted access helps to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of company systems and physical assets within the company.
- Business continuity and disaster recovery planning: The company maintains and periodically tests defined business continuity and disaster recovery plans. These plans are designed to maximize the availability of company systems and information and recover from natural or human-made disasters as efficiently and effectively as possible.
- Redundancy: As part of its business continuity and disaster recovery plans, the company maintains redundant data centers to help ensure the availability of company systems and client information.
Northwestern Mutual uses a secure system in order to protect confidential information that the company shares with clients via email. Replying to or forwarding messages that Northwestern Mutual sends securely to your account may result in unsecure communications.
View the Secure Email Recipient Guide for additional details. Check with a trusted technology expert to discuss options for secure email for your own personal use.
Our client website has a feature known as Secure Share which is a convenient and secure way to share documents between financial representatives and customers. If you are an existing client, click here to register or log in for online access.
Northwestern Mutual Box
Our financial representatives may also use an NM Box account to facilitate secure sharing of documents with their customers or prospective clients.