If you’ve been immobilized about taking action related to the mammoth Equifax data breach, you’re not alone – many people have been. The sheer enormity and scope of the breach – 143 million records in the US alone – left many feeling hopeless. There have been big breaches before so it is easy to become numb to the significance, but this is a truly alarming incident that merits a response. Equifax, as one of the nation’s big three credit reporting bureaus, has access to your most sensitive personal data, including your birth date, Social Security number, driver’s license, address, account history and more.
We’ve gathered the best consumer advice we’ve found from trusted sources on what you can do to protect yourself.
First up: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has compiled an excellent summary page: The Equifax Data Breach: What to Do. It explains more about the breach and the steps that you should take to protect yourself. FTC also points to a very useful site from IdentityTheft.gov related to what you should to when your information is lost or exposed. In a simple drop down menu, they guide you through the steps you should take for various types of exposure, including information about specific breaches. You can see more about these services in this video clip:
Finally, more excellent advice on actions consumers should take comes from Trend Micro, the digital security firm. Their Simply Security blog features a post on The Equifax Data Breach: What Do I Do Next? At the end f the post, they offer a bulleted list of action stops.
Not again. The news is full of reports that more than 500 million online users had their privacy breached in the recent Yahoo online hack. Yahoo is not alone – LinkedIn, MySpace, Dropbox, Target, Anthem, Sony — it’s impossible to keep track, but you can see a list of the largest data breaches of all time for a trip down memory lane. And now we learn that Russian hackers are trying to compromise our voting and election systems.
But taking remedial steps after the horse gets out of the barn doesn’t help you much for protection from the next attack. If your house was robbed, you’d take steps to beef up security, and online isn’t much different – you need to take serious preventive steps now to avoid exposure. It’s human nature to put this off – plus, it can be hard to know just what steps to take. That’s why we were happy to see that the recent Consumer Reports has made online security a focus of the new issue.
Their excellent article 66 Ways to Protect Your Privacy Right Now is a comprehensive must-read, covering online, mobile and real-world security matters. It includes concrete tips, how-tos, and videos on the following topics:
Wondering which financial documents to keep and which to shred? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers this handy shredding infographic along with an accompanying article A pack rat’s guide to shredding. Both offer helpful advice on what security experts say you should shred immediately (ATM receipts, credit card offers, sales receipts) to what you should keep forever (birth certificates, tax returns) and everything in between. This is only one of the many great Identity Theft resources available from the FTC.
June is Online Safety Awareness Month – good timing since we are approaching peak vacation season, it’s worth setting aside a few minutes to take stock of your mobile computing safety. As you travel, every place from coffee shops to hotels will compete for your business by touting the availability of free WiFi and high-speed internet access – a benefit that is great anywhere, but that is particularly valuable when you leave the country. But when using those networks, have you ever stopped to think about how secure those connections are? And even if you are on a secure network — one that requires a log in — you may still be exposed to others who are using that same network. Could that teen sitting near you be practicing hacking skills? Could the surfer at the corner table be looking to steal your identity? Others on the same network can access readily available tools to intercept unencrypted data that is passing over networks. Your session could even be hijacked. On a public network, you must use precautions when transmitting any information that is personal, financial, or confidential in nature.
Even people who take every precaution on home and work computers can be fairly cavalier when it comes to mobile devices – it’s easy to forget that our phones and tablets are really computers and subject to the same security risks. Lifehacker has a good article on how to stay safe on public wi-fi networks – explaining how to turn off Sharing and enable your firewall on various devices, and how to automate your public WiFi security settings. It also suggests using SSL whenever possible and explains what this means and how to do it. Another suggestion is to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN). ArsTechnica talks more about VPNs and other security issues at public WiFi hotspot.
Here are more tips from experts: Tips for Using Public Wi-Fi Networks – from On Guard Online Four safety tips for using Wi-Fi from Microsoft Security Using High-Speed Internet at Hotels Identity Protection Tips for the Summer Traveler
He’s been called the world’s greatest conman. Leonardo DiCaprio played him in the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can – based on his successful cons while impersonating a Pan Am pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor. And he might just be one of the best people to listen to when it comes to protecting your identity.
Today, Frank Abagnale is one of the world’s most respected authorities on the subjects of forgery, embezzlement and secure documents. He’s been consulting with the FBI and with governments, businesses, and financial institutions around the globe for more than 35 years.
We spotted a recent article in The Guardian about how Facebook users risk identity theft that offers some great security tips from Frank – its worth reading. His biggest message is not to expect social media companies to protect your identity – its your responsibility to stay safe. Some of his advice:
“If you tell me your date of birth and where you’re born [on Facebook] I’m 98% [of the way] to stealing your identity,” he said. “Never state your date of birth and where you were born [on personal profiles], otherwise you are saying ‘come and steal my identity’.”
He also advised Facebook users to never choose a passport-style photograph as a profile picture, and instead use group photographs.
Click through to read the whole article and view the video interview. He’s worth listening to!