Earlier this month, Anthem, a major health insurance provider, announced that its computer systems had experienced a major breach of security, exposing the private information of over 80 million individuals. The company found that a “very sophisticated external cyber attack” gave hackers, perhaps Chinese state-sponsored attackers, access to people’s sensitive data, including names, birth dates, social security numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses and employment information.
In November of 2014 Sony was the victim of another massive hack in which attackers gained access to countless intra-company e-mails and memos as well as confidential financial information and even copies of yet-to-be-released films like The Interview. The hack was a major setback for the global conglomerate, which eventually turned political, bringing US intelligence forces in to investigate.
Here are some tips on how to protect yourself from the future hacks that, unfortunately, are bound to happen eventually:
1. Sign up for identity theft protection
Find an all-inclusive identity theft protection service that will provide you with regular credit reports and 24/7 assistance. Most companies charge a monthly price of around $15.00 for this service. You can sign up for individual or household plans, without a contract or long-term commitment.
2. Scorched earth
An extra measure you can take to protect your online and real identity is to shred mail and account statements before throwing the paperwork in the garbage bin. There are still “primitive” identity thieves out there who rifle through trash in order to get at individuals’ credit card or bank account information
3. Be vigilant
From now on, be more cautious about the e-mails you receive and the links you click on. There are many “phishing” schemes out there where hackers try to implant viruses and Trojan horse bugs into your computer through links. If you receive an e-mail asking you to click a link or log into a particular account, do not click the link. Visit the website in question from a new window and log in as you normally would. Also, do not supply personal data to any website or account which asks for it. Do thorough research before replying to any such request. Be just as vigilant with telephone calls asking for personal information.
When submitting taxes, people should be especially conscious of protecting personal information. Identity thieves have been known to submit fake tax returns filed in other people’s names. One could use electronic tax filing instead of the traditional paper forms – electronic files are processed faster.
5. Healthy protection
An often-overlooked element of identity is medical information. Medical ID numbers as well as Social Secuirty numbers should be guarded – thieves could use such data in order to create scams involving medical or insurance bills.
In general, you should start cultivating a new vigilance when it comes to when and how you provide your personal information online and how to avoid scams which land in your virtual “lap.”