Not to be a panic-monger or anything, but, are you aware of how vulnerable your data is, or can be? Yes, in the long list of things to worry about in your daily life, add “my personal data may be at risk from hackers and thieves” to the pile. Data breaches could result in such pleasant developments as identity theft, fraud, emptied bank accounts, and those embarrassing drunken selfies ending up posted on Pinterest.
Let’s pause here for a moment in order to give time for the screaming to stop.
Fortunately, there are measures you can take. So sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of data privacy and data security.
Some Sobering Statistics
According to the “Data Privacy Day: Keep Your Financial Data Safe” infographic, over 2.1 billion records were lost in 2014 thanks to data breaches, an increase of almost 400% over the previous year. That includes 150 million financial records compromised.
Granted, not all data losses were caused by hackers, but they do account for over 70% of such breaches, with the vast majority of them caused by outsiders.
So, what do you do?
Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You
Ever hear of phishing? It can be done by means of a phone call or an email. It’s a scam where the phisher tries to get information from you such as account numbers, by posing as a legitimate company or financial institution, especially one that the victim actually uses.
For instance, if you have a Bank of America account, a phisher may conceivably send you a well-crafted false email saying that your account is in danger, and that you need to reply with your account number for verification’s sake.
You can prevent a healthy amount of data breaches by remembering that the institutions and companies you do business with will NEVER ask you for that kind of information in a message they initiate. If you’re the one contacting them with an issue, then yes, they will ask because they’re making sure you are who you say you are. But companies will never initiate a message where they ask for that information. Never.
What’s The Password?
Probably something lame and easily guessed. Yes, bad passwords are a huge cause of data breaches. That’s because so many people don’t bother taking a little extra time to make their passwords tough to figure out. You can see some of them for yourself in “The 25 Most Popular Passwords Of 2014: We’re All Doomed”.
A good password contains numbers and letters, with a punctuation mark or two thrown in for good measure. Mixing in some upper and lower case letters helps too. But the key is simply to not have a password that is easy to guess. Take someone who’s a Star Wars fan, for instance, and that particular passion is obvious to anyone who reads their profile or other online info. Having the word “Jedi” as a password would be a bad idea. Make your password something that no stranger could ever guess.
And finally, make sure you don’t have your password written down somewhere where people can find it. This is especially important if you routinely do any personal Internet stuff at work. You never can tell who’s walking by your desk or workstation.
Secure Your Network
Wireless computing is awesome. Now you can take your laptop and wander all over the house, no longer constrained by that bulky desktop PC and the data cords. Unfortunately, it’s also a prime target for hackers. Make sure that your network has an original name of your choice, a new password (there’s that password issue again!), a firewall in place (Norton or McAfee are especially good), and use WPA or WPA2 security.
Speaking of wireless security, data theft can also happen if you use a cordless phone at home (do people still use land lines?). It’s possible, if the conditions are right, for a hacker to eavesdrop electronically on a call made from a cordless phone. If you’re going to be saying or entering account numbers over the phone, do it on a land line that doesn’t rely on cordless tech.