Data breaches are on the rise and, despite the increased security requirements that organizations are obliged to undertake, don’t seem likely to stop happening any time soon. Cyberthieves can make a lot of money stealing your identity and there isn’t a strong likelihood that they’ll be caught. As the world becomes more digital, going “offline” isn’t realistic. So what can you do to protect yourself before and after a data breach?
The best defense is a good offense. When it comes to protecting your identity there are some really simple, but effective steps you can take:
- Never use the same password twice. Even if you think your password is un-hackable, you’re probably underestimating the tools that cyberthieves have in their arsenals. In the event that one of your accounts is compromised, using different passwords for your other accounts makes it difficult for a hacker to access them.
- Whenever possible make sure you turn on two factor authentication for your accounts — especially your email.
- When you have to send sensitive information by email, make sure to use an encrypted email service, like
- Make your social media accounts, like Facebook or Instagram, private. Social engineers will often peruse social media accounts to glean the answers to your security questions, like your mother’s maiden name and where you went to high school.
- When choosing what security questions to answer, either choose an obscure question or write your own. It’s generally a good idea to make the answer something fairly off-the-wall, like answering “ice cream” to “what’s your favorite color.”
- Make sure to monitor your digital life: periodically log in to your bank and credit card accounts, do a quick Google search for criminal records, and request a copy of your credit report from the three major bureaus.
If, despite your best efforts, your information was compromised during a data breach it may be months or even years before you truly know if you’re in the clear. Make sure to immediately change all your passwords — and set up a schedule to change them regularly — and obtain copies of your credit reports annually. Don’t fall victim to phishing or social engineering attacks. If you think you might be the victim of identity theft make sure to file a report with your local police department and notify the credit bureaus immediately.
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