2015 has seen a series of major cyber attacks against large companies – Sony Pictures, Target, and Home Depot to name a few. In the wake of these cyber attacks, we thought we would help our customers out with some timely cyber security tips to help protect against identity theft. The world can be a scary place, and while great auto insurance can keep you safe on the road, the internet is a bold new frontier, and its intricacies leave plenty of room for criminal exploitation.
So what can you do to protect against identity theft? Follow these six steps and you will be on your way to greater security and peace of mind.
Cover your vulnerabilities
Every device and piece of software your use has vulnerabilities and backdoors that hackers can exploit to peek inside. Minimize the number of programs and devices that have your information and avoid giving out even the smallest hints when you don’t have to. This means only subscribing to email lists you trust as well, because even your email address can be used against you.
Keep a sharp eye on your digital life
You probably store quite a bit of data online, as many of us do. While it’s safer not to store things like passwords and credit card info on websites, it’s tempting to do so, and at that stage, the most important thing to do is simply pay attention. Identity theft has a few noticeable warning signs such as strange account activity or errors, and there are things you can do to stop it, even after criminals have taken hold. Even keep an eye on your health insurance info, because that free health quote you got last year might have been a front for an information harvest. If you want a secure health insurance quote, you can always count on Freeway Insurance!
Go digital and forgo paper mail – or buy a shredder
Roughly half of all identity theft occurs when someone else receives (or steals) your mail. Don’t forget how much personal information is kept in your mail including documents like bills, bank statements, and tax information. Going digital may sound like the last thing you want to do, but in reality, it’s much easier to catch or stop an identity thief who steals from you digitally.
Another option for the paper mail you must receive is to shred it. There are many inexpensive shredders out there. The items you will want to shred before tossing in the garbage include:
- Items that contain your personal information like your name, address, phone number, social security number, or bank account information
- ATM receipts
- Credit card receipts
- Voided checks
- Pay stubs and records
- Insurance documents
- Used airline tickets
- Signed contracts
Beef up your passwords to make them impossible to hack
It’s tempting to make your password something simple and easy to remember, but there are plenty of algorithms out there designed to guess your password. If your password is made entirely of lower-case letters, a very simple algorithm can crack it, but if you use an even mix of upper-case letters, lower-case letters, numbers, or even symbols (where allowed), it can delay, discourage, or entirely stop a thief from cracking your password. It’s also a good idea not to use the same password everywhere, especially on bank websites, shopping websites, or any site that has your credit card info.
Find vulnerabilities by trying to hack yourself
The most important step is making sure that you effectively followed the previous steps, so have a little fun and try to break into your own accounts using popular hacking methods. Could you break into your Twitter account using information clearly displayed on your Facebook account? Would people be able to easily guess the answers to your security questions or your password? Think like a hacker and check for insecurities!
Keep your computer healthy and secure
As always, your computer is the hub of a lot of information. For those of us who work on our computers, information like credit card info, tax information, and especially passwords can be found through viruses, malware, and insecure networks. There are plenty of free tools you can use online to keep your computer safe from hackers, viruses, and malware, just be careful and make sure that you’re not accidentally making your problems worse by downloading a fresh virus! Don’t use shady-looking websites, and make sure your WiFi network is as secure as you can make it – you’d be surprised how easy it is to access someone’s computer through an unsecured WiFi network.
Follow these steps, and you’re well on your way to preventing identity theft! Just remember that you’re never 100% protected, so it’s important to remain vigilant and learn how to react if you think your identity may have been stolen. Share this article with your friends and loved ones to keep them protected, and make sure to stay up-to-date on new ways to protect yourself in this increasingly digital age.
What other vulnerabilities should our readers be aware of? What additional ways can they stay protected? Let us know in the comments section below!