51% of U.S. adults, or 61% of internet users, bank online; there’s a lot at stake. This year, it seems as though even more data breaches have been in the public eye:
Credit card information
Everyone has probably heard about the now infamous Target credit card breach of “40 million credit card numbers—and 70 million addresses, phone numbers, and other pieces of personal information”. Several other national retailers including Nieman Marcus were hacked around the same time as well.
An international hacking ring stole $1 billion dollars in a scheme spanning from 2013-2015, using “malware so sophisticated that hackers have used it to dispense cash from ATMs without any physical contact with the machines.”
And it’s not just financial institutions that are subject to hacks...
“A security analysis of nine baby monitors from different manufacturers revealed serious vulnerabilities and design flaws that could allow hackers to hijack their video feeds or take full control of the devices.”
RATs (Remote Access tools software) “allow a third party to spy on a computer user from afar, whether rifling through messages and browsing activity, photographing the computer screen, or in many cases hijacking the webcam and taking photographs of whomever is on the other side.”
Thieves can unlock your car remotely by hacking your keyless entry fob. If that’s not scary enough for you, hackers remotely access a driving jeep two hackers not only “remotely toyed with the air-conditioning, radio, and windshield wipers” but have the potential to “fully kill the engine, abruptly engage the brakes, or disable them altogether”. They used to have to be in the car, but now have the capability to connect remotely.
The government can protect it’s data though, right?
Wrong. Compromised records on Federal employees from a 2015 hack “could include embarrassing personal details, such as arrest records or information about drug use, generated by field investigators assigned to check out disclosures made in clearance applicants” for 22 million people.
The good news is that cyber-security has made massive strides to protect our data, including, multi-layered security procedures, data encryption, smart chips in credit cards and more. But as they improve, so do hackers abilities to exploit software vulnerabilities and supply-chain risks.
This is a scary prospect. With the exception of a very small amount of cash on hand, nearly all of my net worth is in the form of numbers on a screen.
But how can we protect our information and privacy in a digital age?
-No personal information over the phone, mail, or email unless you know how you are dealing with. Especially do not open files, links, or programs sent from unrecognized email addresses. No, you don’t have a cousin who’s a Nigerian prince.
-Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive before disposing of a computer.
-Realize that your password, or password reset questions, might be easily guessed if it contains any information such as birthdays, middle or maiden names, etc. that is publicly accessible through social media or other sources. Use a complicated password that is memorable only to you, and never share it.
–See if your information is protected before sending anything over public wifi, such as in a coffee shop, library, airport, hotel, or other public place-Those privacy policies are long, but it’s good practice to read them. If there isn’t one, run don’t walk away from that site.
-Check for for the lock icon of the status bar before sending personal or financial information online.
-Use two-step authentication (a second, additional password that is texted) for sensitive passwords when it is offered-Consider a password manager to generate especially strong and unique passwords.-Setup a Google Alert for your name to keep a closer eye on how it is used online-Use a Firewall and trusted Anti-Spyware software
-Use appropriate virus and privacy software.
-Try Authy, a free app that generates a continuously changing code on your mobile device to create a more secure sign-in standard.
–Keep a close eye on your credit score. If you are especially concerned about a potential identity theft, you can place a free 90 day fraud alert with any of the three national credit reporting companies (TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian).
Don’t forget to protect your data offline as well:
-Keep sensitive documents in a safe (and shred when no longer needed), don’t carry around more cards or IDs than you need, and only share identifying numbers with trusted institutions.-Destroy labels on prescription medication before discarding
-Place a vacation hold on your mail before leaving town–Opt out of prescreened offers of credit and insurance by mail.
While there are no guarantees, by following these best practices you stand a greater chance of keeping your data secure online, and keeping your money and identity safe.