Most of us depend heavily on technology, whether we like or use technology or not! Go to the store, use online banking, shop for your next vacation or even clothes…you are using technology. The same technology that makes our lives easier, can also become a nightmare when someone gains access to our personal information and begins “shopping as you.”
We are told that we need to have passwords that are hard to break and different passwords for each of our various accounts, but how many of us don’t follow this advice? How many of us have the list of passwords sitting beside our computers so we can remember them when we need to use them? I know what you are thinking, who is going to have access to them at my computer? Good point! So, how do these identity thieves get your information? Easy, you give it to them, or they steal it from business computers, government computers, and from the open airwaves!
Free wi-fi is a wonderful thing, right?! You save that data time on your phone bill by using it with your smartphone or laptop down at the local coffee shop or airport, and all is good. But, what if someone is sitting in the coffee shop or airport with software that is capturing all your personal information? Reading the news on your phone or computer is okay, but once you type in your username and password to one of your accounts, the chance is out there that someone just acquired your information. Recently malware (software used for bad purposes), has been discovered at some of those “free” charging stations at airports. You plug in your device to charge it before your flight, and the malware downloads all your private information for an internet thief to acquire.
Did you know that there are over 28.2 billion, with a “B”, attempts at stealing data every hour, and that there are 7+ million fake “IP addresses” on the internet. These fake addresses are being used to “mine” for your data. You receive an email from a friend or business telling you to update your data or check out the latest picture and you click on the “link” that seems like a legitimate link. Either it takes you where you need to go and your none the wiser, or it does nothing and you think that it is a broken link, no big deal. The problem is that your data has been acquired and your computer may now have software inside of it feeding your information to the identity thieves.
I was recently sitting in a conference with an internet security expert and he has solved this problem….never go on the internet! Okay, so option A isn’t going to work, because even if you don’t use social media, or wireless devices, or shop and bank online, your information is still out there. You reduce your chances of having it acquired by not doing these things, but in today’s society your information and the technology that “secures” it is everywhere in everything we do.
What can you do? There is not much you can do about letting the bank, government, healthcare providers, etc. to have your information, but you can protect yourself.
There is software that allows these thieves to read the information from your credit card in your wallet as you walk by due to the chips installed in the credit cards. Solution: buy a wallet or protective slips for your cards that shield them from being read. How many of you knew this was even possible?!
Don’t use your work computer for social media, online services or with your personal information. First it puts your personal information out where it can be stolen and second, it allows hackers to back door in to your work computers.
Make sure you always have passwords on your home and work routers. Make sure the passwords you use are at least eight characters, use both an upper and lower case letter, use at least one number and use a character such as: #, $, &, + if the system you are using allows you to use these symbols. Also, DO NOT use the same password for all your accounts. Finally, if you are making online purchases, and it requires an email account, set up a gmail, hotmail or other free account that you use ONLY for these online shopping accounts.
Don’t make it easy on the people out there trying to steal your identity, use common sense and these few precautions. I will continue to provide updates and additional information in upcoming posts!
Be Smart, Be Prepared, Be Safe!