Protect Yourself from Data Breaches

Protect Yourself from Data Breaches

Our lives are increasingly intertwined with technology and the risk of data breaches looms large. From personal information to financial data, our online presence leaves us vulnerable to cyberattacks and privacy breaches. Personally, my information has been breached several times, just within the past few months. Big corporations, like internet providers, health systems, and credit bureaus, who likely have many safeguards and are subject to regulatory audits ensuring proper protocols are in place, are still vulnerable. Is our information safe anywhere?

As it is not possible for most of us to live off the grid, we likely need many of the services provided by companies who have been and/or will be breached. Knowing this means, as consumers, we need to take a proactive role in safeguarding ourselves from these events.

The obvious place to begin is with a strong password. This is your first line of defense against unauthorized access. Create passwords that are long, complex, and unique for each of your accounts. (Don’t reuse passwords)! Consider using a phrase or string of words that include a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. Never use easily guessable information like your name, birthdate, or commonly used options like password123. Enable multi-factor authentication whenever possible to add an extra layer of security.

Software updates are also important to stay on top of as they often contain patches for security vulnerabilities discovered by developers. Ensure that your operating system, applications, and antivirus software are regularly updated to the latest versions. Automatic updates can streamline this process, reducing the risk of overlooking critical patches.

Phishing attacks are almost a daily occurrence for me. They remain one of the most common methods used by cybercriminals to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information. Be cautious of unsolicited emails, messages, or calls requesting personal or financial details. Look for misspelled words, awkward phrasing, mismatched fonts, or a url that contains an email provider like gmail or yahoo rather than the company name. Never open a link or respond to the message. Verify the authenticity of requests from the purported organization by contacting them directly through trusted channels.

Secure your Wi-Fi network with a password. A poorly secured Wi-Fi network can be an open invitation for hackers. Change the default username and password of your router to something strong and unique. Enable WPA2 or WPA3 encryption to protect your network traffic from interception. Additionally, consider hiding your Wi-Fi network’s SSID to make it less visible to potential intruders or even neighbors looking for free Wi-Fi

When transmitting sensitive data online, such as making financial transactions or accessing confidential information, ensure that you’re using a secure connection. Look for the padlock symbol and “https://” in the address bar of your browser, indicating that the website is encrypted.

Be cautious about sharing personal information online, especially on social media platforms. Review your privacy settings to ensure the visibility is restricted to friends and family for things like social media posts and profile information. Avoid oversharing details such as your address, phone number, or upcoming travel plans, which could be exploited by bad actors.

If a company you do business with has been breached or has fallen victim to a ransomware attack, having backups of your files can be a lifesaver. Implement a regular backup routine for your devices, storing copies of your data on external hard drives and/or cloud storage services. Test these backups periodically to ensure their integrity and reliability.

Keep a close eye on your financial accounts, credit reports, and online activities for any signs of unauthorized access or suspicious transactions. Set up alerts and notifications to receive immediate updates about account activity. Promptly report any unusual behavior to your financial institution or service provider.

Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices for protecting your digital assets. Share your knowledge with friends, family, and colleagues to help them stay vigilant against cyber risks. Our older generations are especially vulnerable. Education is key to empowering individuals to defend themselves against data breaches and cyberattacks.

Consider investing in cybersecurity solutions, such as antivirus software, firewalls, and virtual private networks (VPNs). Choose products from trusted vendors with a track record of providing protection against threats. Although companies that hold financial information, healthcare information, and the like are required to have many of these safeguards in place, adding a layer to your home files will help you to retrieve any information that may be locked down due to a ransomeware attack, for instance.

By implementing these suggestions and adopting a security-conscious mindset, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to data breaches and cybercrimes. Remember, protecting your digital privacy and security is an ongoing effort that requires diligence and awareness. It often seems as though bad actors are several steps ahead of our efforts which makes it that much more important to stay vigilant, stay informed, and stay safe in the digital realm.

About the Author

“We’re a cooperative & innovative team. We love using data and technology to create meaningful marketing programs for our clients.”

-Brad Schorer, President

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