Either stop what you are doing and read this article from PC World, or mark it for later and keep reading this story, because this may be the most important thing you do this month.
Easily searchable personal information available on the web plus easy-to-guess passwords can lead to identity theft. Not worried about that? You should be. It’s a problem that won’t be going away anytime soon, and it won’t just affect your personal life – it can impact your business as well. Keep in mind that being targeted by a hacker versus getting infected by malware are two very different levels of danger. A direct hacking attempt is focused and presents a very clear threat to you, your loved ones and your business.
What this means for you:
Google yourself. Try various combinations of your name (including former names if appropriate). Now try your family members. Look for data that you might consider sensitive: age, birthdate, address, names of financial institutions, work or home addresses, and most importantly look for anything that you’ve used as a password. Don’t freak out! Google doesn’t know you that your dog’s name is your favorite password, but a clever hacker might figure it out just by guessing.
If you’ve sufficiently worried yourself, here’s what you need to do to harden your personal security profile:
- Use longer passwords (8 or more characters) that are not easily guessable. That means you need to stop using your Mom’s birthday, your cat’s name, etc. Mix it up with numbers and punctuation. Hackers can crack a 5-digit/letter password in a single hour just by brute force. If you want to be really safe, use a Passphrase.
- Don’t use the same password/passphrase on your important accounts, like Banks, email, data encryption, etc.
- Search your email (especially if it’s cloud-based like Gmail or Hotmail) for any emails that contain passwords, delete those emails immediately. Delete any emails that list account/login names for important accounts. Do this even if the information is no longer valid – hackers can use the info to make better guesses about active account names and passwords.
- Check your privacy settings for any social networking accounts you use (or have used in the past). If you don’t understand how they work, learn how they work or remove your account if you can’t/won’t take the time. This includes Facebook, G Plus, Pinterest, Yelp, etc. Anywhere you’ve typed in personal information about yourself may be a potential leak you didn’t know you needed to plug.
In the end, if you are able to make yourself even incrementally harder to hack than someone else, hackers are more likely to move on to easier targets. Obviously, if you need help hardening your personal or business security profile, don’t hesitate to give us a call!