By: Lynsey Bish
This is the digital age, where retail infrastructure is quickly transitioning form credit cards to one-click shopping. What is not so clear is the personal risk and exposure each consumer takes when we go online to buy a shirt. How can we protect ourselves? First, a few key facts:
- Computer Hackers are here to stay.
- Hackers are getting more sophisticated at penetrating company’s firewalls.
- The global aggregate information website Intelcrawler.com states that there are currently six retail merchants dealing with cyber-attacks.
- Companies will not let the public know about a cyber-security breach until there is factual evidence of a breach.
It’s safe to say that this problem isn’t going anywhere so here are a few tips to stay ahead of any hackers with the desire to steal your information
1. Change Passwords Regularly
Keep a habit of regularly changing your passwords, once a month should suffice. As for choosing a password make sure they are long enough that only you can decipher/remember what they mean. Coming up with obvious passwords such as your birthdate or initials do not pass muster. Be creative and make your passwords strong by using random combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols that have no connection to you or your family.
If you’re having a tough time remembering all your passwords choose a secure password management service that stores encrypted passwords, like LastPass.
2. Set Up Credit Card Alerts
Most banks and credit card companies have real time notification services that allow them to contact you in the event of a purchase deemed “unusual.” A text notification is an excellent system to know what’s going on with the card at all times.
Some credit card companies even let you set parameters for text notifications. This way a lunch in your area can fly under the radar, but a purchase on the other side of the country will ask for your permission to confirm that it’s actually you making the purchase.
3. Subscribe To Identity Protection
What hackers’ malware does is maneuver its way into private files, grab your credit card and personal information, and sneak out. There are numerous Identity Protection companies who will monitor your credit cards, Social Security number, and other data for a fee. LifeLock is one of the more popular companies that offer identity theft protection.
4. Think Before Biting Into Data
Phishing attacks are one of the most common ways users get hacked. That email from your favorite retailer may look legit but once you click on one of the URLs, you could land on a hacker’s infected web page. Do not click on links you aren’t sure about. Be wary of USB devices claiming to charge you cellphone or other devices. They can poison you with malware or suck up all your personal data.
5. Keep Your Private Information Private.
Unfortunately, there is a constant threat to your personal data whether you are on the go (cell phone, wallet, and laptop) or at home (PC, home phone). Take extra provision in giving information to unsolicited callers. The more you communicate, the more they learn. Many con-artists make calls to unwitting consumers and are able to smoothly trick the listener into thinking that they are an authorized vendor.
A simple rule: do not provide your passwords or personal information to unsolicited callers. When searching new websites, to ensure its security, make sure there is a closed lock symbol at the bottom right of the screen. Web addresses that begin with “https” are generally secure, and if you click on the lock symbol on the bottom right, it will display the same “https” address.
Stop. Think. Connect.
The biggest advantage you can give yourself against cyber-attacks is to raise awareness of cyber risk. Homeland Security has a national public awareness campaign, “Stop. Think. Connect.” that is aimed at increasing the understanding of cyber threats and empowering the American public to be safer and more secure online. Stop.Think.Connect. has an online toolkit that provides resources and guides for Social Media, Cybersecurity while traveling, and discussion topics about Cybersecurity with kids, identity theft, and internet scams.
Protecting yourself online may seem like a daunting task, but by following the five easy steps it becomes simple. You don’t have to be a computer expert to take measures to stay safe online.