When you give your personal information to a financial institution, government or insurance company, you have a certain level of trust that they will do everything in their power to keep it safe. It’s easy to forget that at the same time you’re filling out paperwork online, hackers in the dark world of cyber crime are doing everything in their power to get your information. Yes, your information. And with the recent data breaches from Scottrade and Experian, we can safely call this month a rough one for the world of cyber security.
But we know that you have big questions about why hackers want your information, what they do with it and how you can safeguard yourself. So, as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month comes to a close, we’re diving into your questions about online security and breaking them down for you.
Why do they want my information?
Some hackers just enjoy a challenge. Some want to become infamous. Other are self-titled "hacktivists." But more are in it for the money, and the bigger the data breach--the magnitude of the ones against Experian and Scottrade--the more opportunity they have to make it.
What do they do with my information?
Depending on how much information is taken, a hacker could try to open lines of credit in your name. With a home address, Social Security number, and first and last name, a hacker would have just about everything he or she needs to apply for a credit card or even an auto loan.
Maybe you don’t have a lot of money in the bank or the best credit score. But if a hacker stole $100 from 100 people, he or she would have 10,000. And while you’d probably notice and question a $100 charge you couldn’t remember making, you would be much less likely to question a $20 charge couldn’t remember making. It’s not that they’re targeting you; it’s that they are targeting everyone as a whole. Of course, there are always those bad guys who will open up as many credit cards in your name as they can and max them out even more quickly.
There’s also the case that we saw with Ashley Madison where hackers ran spam campaigns against customers on a list that was released onto the Dark Web. These spam and malware campaigns extorted Ashley Madison users in exchange for not outing them to their families and friends. While blackmail spam campaigns are rare since they normally require much more work than lifting an SSN from breached file, they could certainly be used, especially when emotions are involved.
How can I safeguard myself from this?
- Between online banking, insurance and medical forms online, it’s nearly impossible to control where your information is stored and who has access to it. However, you can take some personal steps to keep your information secure and learn some proactive steps, too.
- Routinely check your credit score for suspicious activity, or even enroll in a credit monitoring service. It’s much easier to dispute suspicious charges and unauthorized lines of credit sooner than later. Many financial institutions have time limits on how long you can wait to dispute a charge.
- Create strong passwords and change them routinely. [email protected]$$w0rd may seem like it’s a clever password, but, trust us, it’s not.
- Don’t take the bait. You may think you’d never fall for a phishing scheme, but hackers are getting creative. We’ve seen some very legitimate-looking emails from credit card companies and online stores “alerting” users that their cards have been blocked, and then requesting that users “confirm” their billing addresses and credit card numbers to restore access.
- Don’t let the Trojan horse in. If you’re confused why your favorite store emailed you an attached .zip receipt for a purchase you didn’t make, it’s because that .zip attachment contains a Trojan virus. Opening that attachment can execute a command to turn your computer into a botnet, download a keylogger, or just completely lock up your computer until you pay a ransom. You can always confirm your purchasing history with the store’s customer service department or log into your online account.
- Cover yourself with layered online security. You can shield your home or business from online threats with email spam and virus filtering and Web protection. Email spam and virus filtering keeps malware from finding you, and Web protection keeps you from finding it.
- Don’t forget the updates. Updates often contain security patches that can fix previous gateways for malware. If your online security solutions don’t update automatically, schedule regular updates.
For more information about how you can safeguard your organization from online threats, visit our solutions page to see which products fit your needs.