America’s biggest bank JP Morgan Chase announced last week that it was the latest victim of a major security breach. According to their regulatory filing, data from nearly 80 million customers was exposed in a successful hacking attempt earlier this year. Though the bank was quick to emphasize that our money and most sensitive bits of info such as dates of birth, social security, passwords and IDs weren’t stolen, names, addresses, emails and phone numbers were – all which could be used to facilitate an identity theft, but which aren’t considered protected or sensitive in most cases. While it’s troubling that the country’s number one bank got hacked, what’s even more worrying is that the media, the public, and even Wall Street seemed to shrug it off and carry on.
What this means for you:
Americans seem to be developing what some analysts are dubbing data breach fatigue: everytime we look up, yet another high-profile company or livelihood staple has been hacked. The list reads like a modern family’s honey-do list: Target, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, EBay, UPS, Apple, Nintendo, Sony, Albertsons, SuperValu, CHS, etc. There have been nearly 600 data breaches reported this year, up 27% over last year, and we aren’t even done with 2014. Fortunately, only a small percentage of the total population have been negatively impacted in a signficant way, though most of us have probably had one or more credit cards get canceled and replaced for fraudulent activity. What this is leading to is the general perception that these data breaches are “bad” only in a vaguely annoying way, and there is not much that an average person can do to protect themselves, “Heck, if JP Morgan can’t figure out how to keep the hackers at bay, how can I ever stand a chance?”
While it’s true you can’t stop JP Morgan from getting hacked, you can make it harder for cybercriminals to hack you: don’t give in to the fatigue – make them fight for every bit they try to steal from you. Change your passwords regularly, and use unique passwords for your important accounts. Keep a close eye on your credit card statements and your credit history. Make sure your all computers you use have up-to-date and functioning antivirus software. Avoid email attachments and unfamiliar websites. What was once considered “paranoia-level” precautions are the new standard of online safety. Considering that nearly half of Americans adults have had some form of their personal data stolen through an online breach, it’s safe to say that “they” are out to get you – paranoia or not.
The new tradition of Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) shopping online has not only caught on with bargain hunters hoping to avoid crowds and early-morning lineups, it has also caught the eye of the digital criminal element as well, who will be counting on naive (and not so naive) shoppers clicking on links to dodgy sites that instead of delivering amazing deals, will end up costing unwary shoppers hunters more than they bargained for.
It is believed that various cybercriminals will attempt to lure victims into clicking links promising deals too good to pass up, either delivered via email, or posted on the various bargain/coupon code websites that are scattered across the internet. Once you click a link to a site that is handing out malware instead of savings, your machine is likely to get infected with one of the hundreds of variants of malware, all with the express intent of, wreaking havoc on your holiday weekend (and beyond), extoring money out of you via ransomware demands, or worse still, lying dormant and undetected on your computer until you start typing in sensitive information, like the password to your banking website and email account. Once that happens, you are only clicks away from identity theft and probable financial damage.
What this means for you:
Common sense and caution are your best defenses, but you should also observe the following:
- Have updated and working antivirus software from a well-known manufacturer.
- Only click links to websites that you recognize – make sure the link you are clicking isn’t being spoofed.
- Can’t confirm a website, or not familiar with the source? Google the domain name – the real domain name, to see if virus/hoax reports have been associated with that domain.
- If the deal sounds too good to be true – it probably is. Call the store to confirm the deal if in doubt. Talk to a human.
- Still can’t confirm? Proceed with extreme caution at your own risk. Is the deal really worth the risk of your security being compromised?
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