There was a time when security meant locking your front door and storing your valuables in a safe. We wouldn’t dream of leaving our cars unlocked with the keys inside or leaving our wallets unattended. Crime was once a physical act; if someone wanted to steal something, they’d have to actually come to you.
Today’s security threats aren’t happening in the physical form. Our hyper-connected world that continues to connect another device, a household function, or even a piece of infrastructure to the Internet each day has opened up new avenues for crime. We are well aware of the data breaches that have impacted organizations and businesses of all types and sizes, from the most trusted financial institutions and leading retailers, to hospitals, government, and everything in between. While these data breaches may be out of sight, they are certainly not out of mind.
From a government standpoint, we are making progress in working together in the private and public sector to help protect both businesses and consumers from cyber attacks. Congress recently passed four Cybersecurity bills, among them, the National Cybersecurity Protection Act of 2014, which would create a platform for the public and private sectors to share information on threats, vulnerabilities, risks and incidents. But while we are making national strides towards protection, why is it that we, as individuals, are leaving our personal, “digital” doors wide open , allowing hackers to access some of our most valuable data? From setting up our mobile devices without passcode protection to emailing or texting personal information such as social security numbers and account numbers, criminals are capitalizing on these heedless actions.
At the same time, the velocity of money is the fastest it has ever been. We are no longer in a world where transfers take 24 hours to process – they are instantaneous – leaving us virtually no time to detect potential fraud. The only protection is prevention.
Here are some measures you should take to protect your personal data:
- Keep your private data… private. Emailing or texting personal information, even to someone you trust, over a seemingly secure system, leaves you more susceptible to cyberattack. Additionally, consider how you store your passwords; if they’re kept in a folder labeled “passwords,” you’ve created a minefield for a potential hacker.
- Beware of phishing e-mails. Phishing and social engineering are the two most common data theft tactics. Next time you receive an email from someone in your contact list asking you to click a hyperlink and enter your personal information, make sure the email is characteristic of the person or organization that it’s coming from. If it seems suspicious, call that contact and verify that the link is legitimate.
- Monitor your activity. Cyber attacks often begin with small, insignificant transactions and then escalate to larger and more complex transactions. Closely watch your bank activity in order to identify any abnormalities.
- Take advantage of the tools your financial institution provides. Many banks and credit card companies offer tools to keep your data safe, including fraud protection and positive pay. Learn about the preventative tools your bank offers for your accounts and take advantage of these services.
As we become even more connected and the nature of security threats changes with every technological advancement, protection and preparedness become increasingly important. While we don’t know what the next cyber attack will entail or what avenues cybercriminals will use, we can be sure that they will happen. My advice is to reevaluate your current environment, consider which preventative measures you can utilize to limit your vulnerability, and most importantly, think twice before leaving your digital doors open.
This article was written by Frank Sorrentino from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.