The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) states that 1,091 data breaches occurred in the U.S. in 2016, which is a 40 percent increase from 2015. The largest percentage of data breaches that take place fall into the hacking, skimming or phishing categories. These categories are defined as follows:

  • Hacking: A hacker attacks a computer system, finding and taking advantage of its weak spots. The hacker gains entry and then may receive passwords, credit card numbers and a whole plethora of other personal information.
  • Skimming: Credit card skimming happens when an unsuspecting victim swipes his or her credit card in a card reader, unaware that a skimmer is attached to the reader. The thief gains the magnetic strip information from the cards that are swiped. A hidden camera is also often installed, which shows the thief pin number details.
  • Phishing: Someone calls or emails a victim, pretending to be a legitimate institution. They do this in order to lure out sensitive data like credit card codes or social security numbers.

There seems to be so many people lurking out there who make careers out of criminal behavior. We’ll focus on the sophisticated online crimes for the purpose of this article. How can you protect yourself and your family? There’s always a risk that your data will be breached, just like there’s always a risk that your home may be broken into. For the latter, you buy a security system and lock your doors. For the former, there are a few simple and necessary steps you can take to keep yourself out of harm’s way.

Think of Hard-to-Crack Passwords

Business Insider reports that 2016’s most used password was 123456. Others in the top ten included qwerty, 12345678 and 111111. The point is that you need to think up a unique and hard-to-crack password that nobody else will think of. It needs to be personal to you, but with a twist.

For example, if your daughter’s name is Danielle, don’t use Danielle1 as your password. Try an acronym that stands for something you remember. “My daughter’s name is Danielle, and I think she’s very sweet,” turns into “mdnidaitsvs.” Add a capitalized letter somewhere, a number and a character on the end, and voila- you have a hard-to-crack password.

Don’t Click those Fishy Email Attachments

Just don’t do it. Perhaps you recall the Gmail phishing scam that occurred at the beginning of 2017, in which Gmail users received emails with what seemed to be Google Doc attachments. However, when they clicked the “Google Doc,” the hacker then gained access to the target’s email account in order to spread the hack even further. It multiplied quickly.

This one was particularly sneaky, because many people are accustomed to receiving and sharing Google Docs all week with their co-workers, so they likely didn’t think twice about clicking the attachment. Its tell was who the emails were addressed to: “hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh@mailinator.com.” If you can’t verify the user or organization or the “to” field looks a little off, don’t click the email. Delete it right away!

Create a Two-step Authentication

Sure, a solid password is always good. But, if you’re still a little wary, many sites like your email or social media sites and others have the option to employ a two-step authentication process. You enter your hard-to-crack password, and then you can have it set up to where a random code is generated and sent to either your email or phone number. You receive that code, enter it into the website you’re logging into, and then you’re in. This measure only takes about ten extra seconds, but it adds an even deeper level of online protection.

Protect yourself online.

Don’t be a statistic. Interested in speaking about more ways you can safeguard yourself online? Please contact us today!

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