Stolen data is BIG business to criminals. We aren’t even really talking about hackers here either… private companies and government agencies routinely leave their databases wide open and exposed online, with little to no protection, giving criminals easy access to harvest your personal data.
Data such as:
It is impossible in today’s interconnected online world to create an impenetrable shield against criminals but there are quite a few things that you can do to reduce your risks.
Make sure to regularly backup all of your data
Never assume that you will always have access to your computer files and folders. Hackers and viruses are only part of the data-loss problem; your hard drive can also fail or get stolen.
Limit what you share on social media sites
A TON of personal information available to criminals isn’t even stolen – it is simply taken from what you share on your social media pages. If you don’t want something out there for a criminal to use, don’t share it on social media. This applies to ALL social media – Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTUBE, and more.
Never reuse a password
Once a password is exposed in a data breach, which happens more often than you are told, criminals will use that password to try to gain access to all of your accounts. Use unique passwords for each account and never reuse old passwords.
Add additional layers of security to your accounts
Adding extra protection can go a long way to keeping your accounts safe. Multifactor authentication is excellent, but the most secure route is to utilize an authenticator app.
Delete old or unused accounts
If you have accounts that you have not logged into in years and don’t plan to again, delete the account. That will give criminals one less place where they can gather your personal data.
Always stop and think before you click on any links or attachments
This statement goes for text messages, emails, search results, websites, and more. Never click a link or attachment that you didn’t specifically request. Some malicious links are obvious as they will contain spelling or grammatical errors. Most are not. Be careful what you trust online.
Make sure your software is always up to date
It doesn’t matter what piece of software you are using or on what device – always keep it up to date! I am talking about your operating system, web browser, Microsoft office – all of it. These companies release the patches to fix errors, bugs, and holes in their platforms. Updating them helps keep you patched against the latest security threats.
Check your app privacy settings
A lot of your personal data that is leaked consists of information you don’t even realize is being collected on you. Apps you install on your phones and tablets track more about you than they tell you. Check the privacy settings for every app that you have installed (you do need to do this individually) on any device. Make sure to remove permissions for any services you do not want an app to be able to access. Things such as your contacts, phone log, location, camera, microphone, and more.
Make sure your SIM card is secure
Your SIM card is a tiny chip that lives in your cellphone and tells your carrier (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, whomever) that the phone number and phone belong to you. Criminals can convince your carrier to switch your number to their SIM card with a simple phone call. How can you protect your SIM? Contact your carrier company and setup a unique PIN number to access or make changes to your account.
Freeze your credit reports
If you think you have already become a victim and you are worried that a scammer may try to open fraudulent credit lines in your name you can place a freeze on your credit. The freeze will block anyone (including you) from opening new accounts. You can always unfreeze your credit later if you need to open a new account. This is a free service offered but you need to contact each of the credit bureaus individually (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to get it done.
Stay safe out there!