In today’s tech-savvy environment, ownership of any item your heart desires can be accomplished through a simple act—the swipe of a card at a register, or input of a series of numbers into an online form, and the item is as good as yours.
So easy to use, we often forget that what happens in each of these transactions is pretty powerful. Through a single purchase, we provide companies with the ability to access, charge, and take directly from our bank accounts.
Credit and debit cards are convenient, but if not handled with care, they can also expose personal or business bank accounts to dangerous cyber threats. Below, we recap a few recent data hacks and provide you with tips on how to keep your most sensitive information safe.
Recent Threats to Personal Information
2014 has just begun, but as consumers of product and media we’ve already faced multiple breaches in personal data. These incidents impacted millions and inconvenienced our financial wellbeing, and there’s fear of more to come.
Target(ed) During the Shopping Season
As holidays approached, hackers waited for the optimal time and place to strike, selecting one of the biggest shopping days of the year—Black Friday—and one of the largest retailers in the nation—Target.
What resulted was a hack of information from 40 million credit cards used between November 27 and December 15.
Information Exposed in a Snap
The novelty of photo text messages that appear for others to alter, and then disappear a few seconds after read, has made SnapChat a popular application, particularly among teens.
SnapChat team members recently shared news during the holiday season that a flaw in one of the applications features allowed a breach of information to the tune of 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers taken and uploaded elsewhere on the web on New Year’s Eve.
How to Keep Your Information Safe and Secure
With much of this activity out of our control, it can leave some feeling helpless at the expense of hackers. Luckily, there are ways to proactively protect personal information online, whether you’re managing finances or shopping.
The Department of Homeland Security shares a few tips on internet safety, as well as what do in the event of an incident response. As a set of general best practices, keep the following tips in mind as you operate online:
- Check your balance. Frequently check bank account and credit card balances, and note any charges that appear unfamiliar or suspicious. Many banks and credit card companies will quickly flag these for you. They keep tabs on your current charges and balances too, and are trained to look for suspicious activity.
- Protect with passwords. Change your online passwords frequently, use strong passwords that include numbers, letters, and special characters, and do not use the same password for every login.
- Know what’s kept private. Visit the privacy settings page, or read through the privacy policies of each site you share personal information. Know how you can adjust what’s shared, as well as the likelihood that your information could be shared with a third party.
- Access through trusted connections. Only access or share sensitive information, from logins to financial information, over trusted and secure Internet connections.
- Share only with those you trust. Do not share login or sensitive personal information on sites if you’re unsure of where that information will go or how it will be used.
- Know where your devices are and keep them protected. Know where your mobile and desktop devices are kept, know who has access to each item, and keep them locked and password protected when not in use.
Have you fallen victim to credit theft or fraud? How did you discover your information had been stolen? Share your story in the comment section below.
In search of additional insights on password hacks, online identity protection, and more? Download our free ebook, Work Out the Bugs in Your Information Security.