Ten Cyber Security Tips to Protect Your Identity

By TechZone360 Special Guest
Bill Carey, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Siber Systems Inc.
August 26, 2014

This summer, the largest hacking incident in history was exposed as security analysts reported that a Russian cybercrime ring had collected well over a billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses. The analyst group that reported the theft confirmed the data was stolen from major corporate websites as well as small sites.

The Russian hacking incident is the largest ever reported, but it’s only the latest to make headlines. The Target data breach that involved 40 million customer accounts is still causing headaches for the retailer and its customers. Snapchat, Yahoo, Zappos and CNET are other popular online destinations that have experienced widely covered hacking incidents.

Given the prevalence of cybercrime, it’s not unreasonable to assume that virtually everyone will have their identity stolen at some point during their lifetime. If you manage a business, you’ll want to make sure you and your employees carefully guard client data. Here are 10 ways you can operate more safely online – whether you use the Internet for business, pleasure or both:

  1. Use strong passwords only. Many hacking incidents begin with cracking a weak password. Make sure you create passwords that use upper and lowercase letters and incorporate numbers and special characters. Passwords that use multiple combinations of letters, symbols and numbers are harder to hack. 
  2. Never use personal information in your password. Although using a favorite sports team’s name as your password makes it easy to remember, it also makes it very easy to hack. This information is often available in seconds via a Google search of your name, and adding your birthday to the end doesn’t make it much stronger since that’s online too. 
  3. Set passwords and PINs for mobile devices. Today’s smartphones and tablets function as mini-computers, with people making online purchases and conducting banking via mobile apps. And yet too many leave their devices completely unprotected. Always set a password or create a PIN to protect your data if your device is lost or stolen. 
  4. Use unique passwords for each website. A strong password is a good start, but it’s also important to make sure you use different passwords for every registered site you visit so that if one site is hacked, your data on other sites won’t be compromised.
  5. Change passwords every 30-60 days. Hackers often steal data in bulk and sell username and password combinations to third parties. If you change your password frequently, you’ll have a better chance of shutting a third-party purchaser out of your accounts before they ever have a chance to log in. 
  6. Use a “burner” email address. These days, many merchants and online app downloads require an email address. To avoid being inundated with spam – and to protect your identity – create a “burner” email address with a free account from Gmail or Yahoo.
  7. Change email settings to display text only. One hacker trick is to embed an image that automatically displays when you open an email so that they can gain information. Set your email to display text only, and then click to open images only if it’s from a sender you know and trust. 
  8. Update your operating system software whenever prompted by your system. Your OS provider sends out updates that frequently contain security improvements and patches, so it makes sense to install updates as they become available. 
  9. Don’t store an unencrypted password list on your device. Since it’s important to use strong passwords and change them frequently, you may be tempted to keep track of them on a spreadsheet or in a Word document, but that would be a mistake. If a hacker did manage to breach your system, the password list would compromise all of your accounts. 
  10. Close your browser when you walk away from your computer. Even if you’ll just be gone for a minute, it’s always a good idea to close your browser when you leave your computer unattended. It would only take seconds for someone to steal your login information.  

Passwords will remain the first line of defense for identity theft protection for the foreseeable future, so the most important thing you can do to protect yourself online is to make sure you use strong passwords and change them frequently. Password management software is a good option if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of creating and updating your own passwords; a password management solution can handle this for you securely and automatically.

But no matter which tactic you choose – creating and managing your own passwords or seeking automated support – make sure you follow these 10 cyber security tips to protect your identity. With each mass hacking incident, it seems more likely that everyone will fall victim to hackers at some point, but by using good cyber security practices, you can improve your odds.

About the Author: Bill Carey is Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Siber Systems Inc., which offers the top-rated RoboForm Password Manager solution. Find out more about RoboForm at http://www.roboform.com/.

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