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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Steps to Protect Your Data in the Age of Breaches

No one is immune from cybercrime or data breaches. But you can take steps to protect yourself.

Data protection is more critical than ever in the age of remote work and increasing cybersecurity threats. Here are the top steps to protect your personal information: 

Create Strong Passwords

Passwords are one of the main barriers cybercriminals must overcome when hacking into your accounts. It’s a good idea to use best practices to create passwords that hackers are unlikely to guess, especially those with many letters (both upper and lowercase), numbers, and symbols.

If you stick to these guidelines, it should take a cybercriminal at least a few seconds or even minutes to crack your password. This isn’t nearly as long as it would take them to hack a simple password like “guest” or one of the top 200 most common passwords such as “123456,” “12345789,” or “password.”

However, even if you follow these guidelines, your password might still be vulnerable if it’s been exposed in a previous breach. 

In addition, don’t reuse passwords across different sites and services. If hackers successfully hack a site where you use the same email and password, they can quickly get into your other sites too.

Also, keep your passwords private from others, not even friends or family. This includes sharing them over the phone, in an instant messaging app, or on social media. Finally, if you keep a list of passwords on your computer in a document file, make sure the file name is random so that it doesn’t look obvious to snoopers.

Monitor Your Accounts

The best way to protect your personal information is to monitor it regularly. For example, you should check your checking account at least once each week. This will help keep you aware of your spending and catch fraud sooner. You should also monitor your credit daily. Credit monitoring will let you know when someone has tried to open a new account in your name. This can prevent a significant financial disaster if caught early enough.

It would be best if you also were wary of advertisements, emails, or phone calls that ask you to provide personal information. Scammers often use these to obtain your information. If you receive a request to provide your personal information, contact the company directly to verify that it is legitimate.

It is important to note that even the most sophisticated organizations will sometimes experience a data breach. While many breaches result from hackers, most occur because of authorized employees’ negligent or inept data handling.

To improve cybersecurity, businesses should inventory where sensitive information is stored and on what devices. This includes websites, computers, mobile devices, flash drives, digital copiers, and home computers. Businesses should ensure that employee access is limited and that security patches are updated promptly. In addition, companies should provide education for their staff and implement a whistleblower hotline. Finally, a legal framework is needed to address the impact of data breach, including identity theft and the gnawing sense of losing control over one’s “digital self.”

Change Your Passwords Regularly

While you should have strong passwords that are difficult to crack, changing your passwords regularly is also essential. This will prevent cybercriminals from accessing your account once they’ve cracked your old password and can help protect you from identity theft.

The most common reason for changing a password is if a company you have an account with announces that they’ve experienced a data breach. While the company might not notify you that they’ve been hacked immediately, your information will likely be for sale on the dark web within days or hours of the data breach.

You should also consider changing your password if you’ve used the same password for multiple accounts or if you use a password that contains personal information (such as your name, date of birth, address, or pet’s name) that hackers can guess. Passwords containing personal information are the easiest to guess, so it’s a good idea to create passwords with various letters, numbers, symbols, or unrelated phrases.

However, it’s important to note that there is no definitive metric for how often you should change your passwords. Some experts recommend a password change every three months. In contrast, others suggest this is optional and can confuse end-users who constantly have to update and remember their passwords.

Don’t Share Your Passwords

When you share your password with another person, you give them access to all accounts that use that same password. This can lead to credit card fraud, identity theft, and other serious problems. Even if you trust the person with whom you’re sharing your password, they could forget to store it in a secure place or use an unsecure device. They might also have other personal information on their device, like pictures stored in iCloud, to help them access your accounts.

This is why it’s best to keep account passwords private from others. There may be some exceptions if you’re married or in a relationship, but generally, it’s not smart to share passwords. It’s too easy for someone to overhear you or your shared login information to get out in conversation accidentally.

Sharing passwords also makes them more vulnerable to sniffing or phishing. It’s easy for malicious actors to get ahold of your password when it’s written down or printed out, and it’s just as easy for them to intercept your password on a wired or wireless unencrypted network. 

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