Have you every typed your name into a search engine like Google or Bing to see what kind of information is out there on you? Is there enough information for an identity thief to piece enough information on your life to steal your identity? In this digital age where lots of information about us can appear online and public records are easy to find, if a computer thief wanted to wreak havoc on your life, they could. Many of us are utilizing social media (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, etc) and sharing so much info and data that it’s almost easy to recreate an online profile by piecing information from here and there. If you are using e-mail, uploading photos from your trip or from back in the day, or shopping on-line you are providing lots of ammunition that can come back to bite you. Now here is the other scary thing, you may not be using a computer or posting anything on-line, and yet bits of your personal data is still available on-line because of digitized public records. Someone good at doing searching can locate information about your mortgage, family information and more. I remember I once did a search on my mother back in the early 90’s. I was able to find her name, birth date and birth information, current address and of course MapQuest gave me directions to her house. So if I can find out this kind of information on someone who has never used a computer to do anything, what kind of information is out there on you and what can you do? Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help minimize your risk of having your identity stolen or worse.
10 ways of Protecting yourself On-line
- See what on-line information already exists – To ascertain just what information is out there in cyberspace just go to one of the planetary databases (Google, Bing or Yahoo) and type in your name. Search for it with and without quotation marks. Search for it using parts of your address including past addresses. Search for your name and your phone number(s). Also try searches with you name along with any clubs you belong to, any job titles, or any educational institutions that you may have attended. I was surprised at what I found when I typed my name in the browser. What did you find? What kind of information can an identity thief use? Now here is the sad part, this information as they say, will exist on the web almost forever and there is very little you can do to remove it. So you have to but in some security counter measures.
Have Great Passwords – The best passwords are auto generated mixes of letters, numbers and special characters, but these can be extremely difficult to remember. If you used one of the Star Trek type passwords like “1-7-3-4-6-7-3-2-1-4-7-6-Charlie-3-2-7-8-9-7-7-7-6-4-3-Tango-7-3-2-Victor-7-3-1-1-7-8-8-8-7-3-2-4-7-6-7-8-9-7-6-4-3-7-6″ you might be OK. However, as most passwords are hacked using brute force methods in which the computer hacker uses a special computer program to run all the possible combination and permutations of characters. Needless to say the longer and more complex your password is the longer it will take to crack. For example If you password is your telephone number, this is easier to hack than “78ac5dc9″ ,which is the number of the Whitehouse in hexadecimal. Also I have to warn you, that many cable companies use your home phone number as the password to your router. Here is another tidbit of information an IntelCore7 processor that just hours to crack a five character password like Rik3r, but is can take more than ten days to crack a seven character one like CP1card. This is one of the reasons why computer security experts strongly suggest using passphrases. Passphrases are typically longer than passwords, for added security, and contain multiple words that create a phrase. Passphrases should be
- 20 to 30 characters long.
- a series of words that create a unique phrase such as “dark lord of apples”
- Does not contain common phrases found in literature or music.
- Does not contain words found in the dictionary.
- Does not contain your user name, real name, or company name.
- Is significantly different from previous passwords or passphrases
- Contains numeric and symbol substitutions for some of the characters
- Stay Current on Security – Thieves are incredibly smart and persistent and therefore are always trying to find new ways to access computer systems using special programs such as viruses, malware, spyware and other inventions. This is why it is necessary that you make sure your computer software, Anti-Virus, Spyware detector, firewall, etc. stays up-to- date. I advise setting up one day of the week or month where you check for and download any updates.
- Create a Clone – I often tell people what I have over 9 e-mail accounts that I use to filter different information. I have two emails for information that I use for sensitive information such as online banking, and online purchases. I have another I use of social networks. I have three for my business communications, one of those of business online banking. I have others that I use for doing online surveys, or on-line contest. When I do some of the online surveys that ask for personal info, I don’t give my current zip code, or use my real birth year. Another thing to do is to change your middle initial, if you have one. After all, we don’t know who is collecting this data, or where it will end up. If you have ever shopped for quotes on a mortgage or insurance, you will quickly see how fast your information is sold to data shops as your mail box will become filled from information for companies looking to see you their products. On my sensitive accounts I have secure passwords that I do change at least one a year.
- Be Careful What You Download. – When you download a program or file from an unknown source, you risk loading malicious software programs on your computer. Fraudsters often hide these programs within seemingly benign applications. Think twice before you click on a pop-up advertisement or download a “free” game or gadget. Lots of legitimate software can also install software that may contain who knows what. Just opt out of these. Before you install the software create a restore point. After you install it, run your security software.
- Log Out Completely. Closing or minimizing your browser or typing in a new web address when you’re done using your online account may not be enough to prevent others from gaining access to your account information. Instead, click on the “log out” button to terminate your online session. In addition, you shouldn’t permit your browser to “remember” your username and password information. If this browser feature is active, anyone using your computer will have access to your brokerage account information.
- Use Your Own Computer If You Can. – It’s generally safer to access your online bank account from your own computer than from other computers. If you need to use a computer other than your own, you will not know if it contains viruses or spyware that is tracking your information. If you do use another computer, be sure to delete all of your “Temporary Internet Files” and clear all of your “History” after you log off your account.
- Don’t Respond to Emails Requesting Personal Information. Legitimate entities (Banks, Government agencies etc) will not ask you to provide or verify sensitive information like your social security number or account numbers, through a non-secure means, such as email. If you have reason to believe that your financial institution actually does need personal information from you, pick up the phone and call the company yourself – using the number in your Rolodex, not the one the email provides! I often get e-mail messages seemingly from my bank telling me that my account has been compromised and the email take me to a form that asks for all my information like name, SSN, account numbers, address, etc. I usually fill out the information using one of my favorite TV Characters. I ponder if they are trying to sell the personal info of Mr. Fred G Sandford to data brokers.
- Use Extra Caution with Wireless Connections. Lots of the gadgets we use today be they smartphones, tablets or laptops can access a wireless network. Wireless networks may not provide as much security as wired Internet connections. In fact, many “hotspots” – wireless networks in public areas like airports, hotels and restaurants – reduce their security so it’s easier for individuals to access and use these wireless networks. This puts your digital data at risk at being seen by anyone with the right software and equipment. Unless you use a security token or great firewall, you may decide that accessing your online brokerage account through a wireless connection isn’t worth the security risk.
- Protect yourself Offline – By all crime data analysis most identity theft happens more offline. The avenues of choice are mailboxes, dumpster divers, lost or stolen wallets. If at all possible do most of your finances on-line. Many banks and financial institutions will allow you to opt out of receiving paper copies of your statements. Buy a diamond cut or confetti cut or anything that says it is a crosscut shredders. Avoid the ones that just put them into strips. As a police officer friend of mine said, a meth addict who is wide awake for 4 days has to trouble putting those strips together. You can also use your shredder material in your compost pile for added security and for making your home or business more green.
Password Correct..Access Granted(http://peppereyes.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/password-correct-access-granted/)
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