Wednesday, 22. January 2014
Protecting sensitive information is always important, but the subject is in the spotlight after the recent holiday data breach at Target – the worst such incident in history. According to news reports, as many as 70-million people may have been impacted by the security breakdown, with new information coming to light daily as forensic investigations continue to uncover exactly how widespread the problems associated with the breach really are.
Emerging information from the retailer suggests that the number of parties involved may be significantly larger than initially imagined, and the information subject to the breach is not limited to a particular piece of personal data. Names, addresses, email accounts, and phone numbers are each thought to have been accessed by the hackers responsible for the attack.
As the disturbing trend to steal personal information continues to grow, new lines of defense against attacks are added every day. But what can you do to protect yourself from malicious attempts to breach your personal security?
Stay in the Loop
Busy families have enough concerns, without constantly backtracking to ensure their private information remains so. Unfortunately, protecting yourself against identity theft and data breaches is no longer a passive activity.
Your credit report yields clues about your life, calling attention to entries that don’t add-up. To remain secure, stay informed about your credit status by pulling reports periodically to see where you stand. Red flags include credit resources listed on your report, like cards and loans, which you are not responsible for.
If suspicious information is gleaned from your credit report, act swiftly to mitigate damage. Security freezes place holds on your ability to establish credit, prohibiting lenders from doing so while frozen. Fraud alerts, on the other hand, provide notification that you may be a target, but they don’t automatically put strong credit restrictions in place.
Fortify Online Security
Sitting ducks are easy pickings for sophisticated hackers bent on infiltrating private platforms. Operating online without the proper security measures automatically places you at risk.
Logins and Passwords – Sensitive login information should never be shared with other users, even if your computer is occasionally shared. Also, the characters you use for your passwords should include features that contribute to your safety. Upper and lower case characters, for example, should be used in passwords, as well as numbers and unique characters that break up identifiable patterns. Take care to use more than one password too, so your entire online profile isn’t tied to a single access code. Store your PINS, passwords and logins remotely, offline, creating a physical separation from your virtual world.
Your computer itself can act as a portal for bad guys, so it is important to protect it with up-to-date anti-virus software and other barriers appropriate for shielding your information.
Protect Data Offline Too
No matter how high-tech criminals get, they are always looking for old-school opportunities to take advantage of victims. In addition to bolstering online security, staying safe from identity theft and data breaches extends to how you conduct yourself offline too.
For starters, remain mindful of what you carry with you, leaving sensitive documents at home. Stay vigilant of your surroundings, especially when using credit and ATM cards, which are frequently targeted by criminals. When your wallet or purse is not in use, find secure ways to carry them, preventing accidental loss or theft.
Protecting personal information is a proactive requirement for staying safe in the digital age. Use common sense security standards to stay out of harm’s way on and offline.
This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes for Backgroundchecks.org. She welcomes your comments at: GrayRebecca14@gmail.com.