Rarely does a month pass without news of a data breach scrolling across our televisions or web page. So far in 2016 over 360 breaches have been made public impacting nearly 5 million records, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Each of us is at risk, since personal information and private information is everywhere – if it’s not in a system that is attacked it’s probably somewhere a hacker can get to in another system. The leading causes of major breaches have been clicking on a malicious link or attachment, shared passwords or passwords revealed via phishing attempts, or exploited technical vulnerabilities, such as unpatched or out of date applications and computers.
How to Protect Yourself
First, you need to be constantly aware of new schemes and scams. While some breaches are high profile, in many cases the original source of a data breach was someone giving up their account information to a phishing attempt. Here are just a few tips to help keep you safe:
Update your computer.
Make sure your computer’s applications and operating system are protected with all necessary security “patches” and updates. Do yourself a favor and adjust your computer settings
so that you don’t miss critical software updates that patch software vulnerabilities on your computer.
Make sure your computer is running up-to-date antivirus software.
Beware of unfamiliar links and attachments.
Links in email, texts, tweets, posts and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals steal your information or compromise your computer. Attachments are another path for the bad guys to hijack your data. Remember, if it looks suspicious, delete it.
Use strong, complex passwords.
Make your passwords difficult to guess by incorporating at least 11 characters with one each in the combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. A good password can’t be found in the dictionary.
Use multiple passwords and change them regularly.
While most of us have too many passwords to remember, it is not a good idea to use just one password. Use a unique password for each account or group passwords if you don’t
want to manage that many: one for social media, a different one for financial institutions, a separate password for medical access, and another for other accounts with no access to
financial information. Change your password regularly, at minimum once a year. And remember, while it may be easier for you to recall, reusing passwords is risky.
Keep passwords secret.
Don’t let anyone trick you into revealing your password or other personal or private information. Don’t share your passwords or reveal them to others. No legitimate organization should
ever ask for your password.
Delete sensitive information whenever you can.
Keep it off of your workstation, laptop computer, and other electronic devices if at all possible.
Don’t forget your mobile device.
Create a four-digit code for smartphones, and set the device to remote wipe after 10 incorrect log-in attempts. Theft of smartphones are more common than ever, but a code and remote wipe
puts a big speed bump in terms of what a thief can do if they get your phone.
Review your credit report.
You can get a free copy annually from each of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion (visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228). Make sure it’s accurate and includes only those activities you’ve authorized.
• Tips on protecting yourself, as well as what to do if you are a victim of a data breach.
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