The Top Ten Ways of How to Protect Yourself Against Data Breaches and Hacks in 2019
This year is crucial for the future of your security – cyber-attacks are becoming more sophisticated and more common than ever before. Hackers are getting smarter, and the increase of data breaches and attacks on your personal information are becoming larger and more common.
Social media has easily become the largest data breach threat out there, according to Gemalto’s latest Breach Level Index, an international database of communal data breaches. “…Gemalto explains that over the first six months of 2018, there were 945 data breaches. Just six social media hacks made up for over half of all data records that were breached that year. This involved the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook incident, that included 87 million users becoming subject to having their personal information inadequately shared with the political consultancy.” Paula Gilbert, ITWeb telecoms editor.
Social media platforms contain a variety of personal information including addresses, phone numbers, names, and associated accounts, but there is another platform of communication that could contain even more private information… email.
From large or small businesses to personal accounts nearly every person with a smartphone or computer uses some sort of email platform. The invention of email has easily become the fastest and most convenient way, aside from cell phones, to send information. However, with the innovation and convenience of email comes the risk that data breaches can occur to even the best of us. In the next ten weeks, we will take a look at the top ten ways of how to protect yourself, business, or family against data breaches and hacks.
It is important to be cautious when sending personalized messages. Before sending any personal or private information over standard email, ask yourself, “Would I send this in a UPS see-through package or write it on the back of a post card?” It is imperative to note that when you send an email it becomes a permanent record that can be viewed and seen by everyone. As a universal rule, always try to steer away from sending your social security number, credit card information, address, phone number, or pay stubs over standard email because email is forever!
Routinely changing or updating your password is the quickest and easiest way to make sure your email is safer from data breaches. Although changing your password is as easy as a click of a button, you want to put a bit more thought into how and when you change your password. When updating and changing passwords it is important to make them intricate and more than six characters long.
Also, if available, use a multi-factor authentication tool and make passwords or security questions random. Do not set them to something personal in your life, such as your address or social security number. The real question here though is when do I need to change my password? We will dive a bit deeper into that next week.
2. Why You Should Create Complex Passwords Using a Phrase or Quote
It is vital to develop long and intricate passwords for your email or any online platform. The reason for this is that it will help to protect and be your best defense against data breaches and hacks. For example, pick a sentence, phrase, or a quote that you can easily remember. This could be from a book or movie, maybe something your mom said to you when you were a kid. Whatever you may choose to do make sure it is NOT something private or simple.
3. Do Not Send Personal Information Over a Non-Secure Email Platform
Sending or receiving social security, bank, or credit card information over a non-secure platform could cost you. For hackers and cyberpunks alone, accessing a non-secure email or online platform could be easier than “taking candy from a baby”. Sending encrypted messages will always be your best bet from avoiding fraud. Encryption is the process of converting information or data into a code, especially to prevent unauthorized access. When this is enabled it makes sending personal information quick & easy.
If you need to occasionally send a file unencrypted make sure to password protect the document. To do this, click the file button in the top left of the document and then click protect document, you can then proceed to send the file across your standard email platform.
4. Always Manage Your Compromised Email Accounts
If your email account ever gets hacked or personal information is stolen from you, changing your password is the first of many steps you should take to protect yourself against further actions. It is important that you check your settings regularly, scan your computer and other devices for malware and viruses with a security program, and use secure and private networks. To see if your email account has been hacked visit www.haveibeenpwned.com.
5. Do Not Buy Anything on a Non-Secure Website
When purchasing anything online, simply look for a small lock that is displayed to the left of a URL address in an address bar, as well as the HTTPS:// website formatting text. This symbol indicates that whatever site you are on is protected and safely secure to purchase from.
6. Always Monitor Bank Accounts and Credit Reports
Another simple precaution to take when avoiding a data breach is to consistently monitor your credit reports and bank statements. Not only is this a simple method but it’s quick and inexpensive as well. To monitor your credit report, just set up a credit monitoring service; try to pick one that monitors your credit report on major credit bureaus and alerts you when it notices unfamiliar traffic.
7. Don’t Hesitate to Drop your Mail at a Post Office
Sending mail through the United States Postal Service is one of the more secure ways you can send personal information. The Postal Inspection Service, the federal law enforcement support of the Postal Service, continuously works around-the-clock to keep personal information safe and protected against theft.
8. Always Shred and Dispose of Unwanted Personal Information
INVEST IN A SHREDDER! In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled that, “Once an item is left for trash pick-up, there is no expectation of privacy or continued ownership.” Although you might not believe it discarded information is one of the most common ways of stolen identity. Shredding personal information avoids multiple risks such as identity theft, litigation, fines, penalties, fraud, unwanted publicity, etc. To avoid such actions, it is necessary to shred unwanted medical and dental records, mail, resumes, used airline tickets, credit card applications, speeding tickets, etc.
9. Put All Information in a Secure Email Message When You Travel
When traveling, simply send yourself a secure email with copies of your personal credit card and travel itinerary. This will allow you to travel with your most important documents in a secure fashion. If you lose track of any of them while you are traveling, you can easily access the copies that are inside of your secure email account.
10. Shop with Cash or a Micro Chip Credit Card
Not only does using cash instead of a credit card alleviate the chance of stolen information but studies have shown that people who use cash over a credit card tend to spend less. Spending less minimizes the chance of going into debt and having your information stolen.
Written by Peter J. Schaub
President & CEO