When it comes to cyber security, we are all in a heightened state of awareness lately after hearing about so many security breaches that leave thousands of consumers vulnerable time and time again. Although there has been a lot of talk about these vulnerabilities, and numerous news reports after the attacks have already taken place, the real question is – is anyone listening?
In a poll done recently that was prepared by Intercede, which is a digital security company, more than 1,000 people in the U.S. and the UK were asked if they believed existing safeguards are really protecting their digital identities and private information from exposure. The overwhelming answer from 95% of the people polled was a big “NO”. After all the recent media attention that several different breaches have received, are we listening to the wakeup call?
Although it seems that this may change in coming years as many companies and organizations work to strengthen their defenses against what Intercede refers to as “easily hackable, widely used password based authentication methods”, this does not change the existing state of data insecurity and the obvious mass opinion that privacy online is not a guarantee.
So what are our options? How do we protect ourselves when it looks like no one else can assure our security?
The bottom line answer is good management. Manage your risk of exposure and your vulnerabilities before something bad happens. Manage the damage if you’ve already been a victim to an attack to your data or your privacy.
Manage Risk Factors
- Know the right people. Whether you are an individual consumer, a small startup business, or a large corporation, knowing the right people who can help you manage your technology and information goes a long way. At Halo Managed Technology Solutions, our number one priority is to maintain the highest level of security for all clients at all times. Having a MSP (managed service provider) can help to put your mind at ease so that you can concentrate on other aspects of your business while knowing that the technology and security are well taken care of.
- Make sure your computer, laptop, smartphone, and tablet are always secured with the most up-to-date security software and firewalls, and save any sensitive information on an encrypted flash drive.
- Use passwords that are long and strong (alpha-numeric, symbols instead of letters where possible) and be sure to change them often.
- Take an extra minute to type your user ID and password in at every site you visit or app you use. This may seem tedious, but why make it easy for a hacker because you want to save a few seconds on your login time?
- Shred all documents that have any sort of personal or financial information on them.
- Never click on a link that doesn’t look right.
- You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies at least once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you notice any information that is not accurate you should immediately notify the credit reporting agencies and ask that it be examined.
- Sign up for transactional monitoring programs. Just about every credit union, bank, or credit card company has free programs that are offered that will notify you of any and all activity on your accounts.
Manage the Damage
The identity thieves out there continue to find new weaknesses and their damage can be seen over and over again (do you all remember Target, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, Anthem, Premera, Carefirst, and Ashley Madison?) and the damage has become harder to identify and more challenging to untangle. More than 1 billion files — many comprising of very sensitive personal information — have been accessed improperly in the past few years. Despite your best efforts, the chances are increasing that your information can fall into the hands of someone interested in exploiting your data for personal gain.
So, if you think you have become a victim, what do you do now? Notify the authorities immediately, they can create an identity theft incident report you can use to straighten out your credit and identity issues going forward. You may also want to consider freezing or placing a fraud alert on your credit as well, depending on what’s been compromised.
Most organizations like insurance companies, credit unions, banks, universities, and employers have a standard operating procedure in place to help you find your way through the rocky road of an incident like this. Make sure you contact your bank or any other institution that may be involved in the incident and ask questions, these companies are always very willing to help.
Don’t forget – the final guardian of the consumer is YOU, the consumer. No one else has a greater stake in managing and protecting your financial safety and well-being than you.