Be the Hedgehog

Over time there have been 2 certainies in life, death and taxes.  We now add a third, identity theft.  Our general attittude is one of helplessness.  We adopt a “There’s nothing I can do about it” attitude or the laissez faire attitude, “If it happens, it happens.”

With the number of breaches, ransomware attacks and data exposured to the attacks over the past few years I thought it important to address some simple things we can do to protect ourselves and our “stuff” – stuff is electronic data.  The data breach for Equifax exposed data on everything …and then some… that hackers need to buy a house, a car, pay for college or medical procedures or even steal your tax refund.  Tens of thousands of records exposed ripe for harvesting.

Are you still not on HIGH ALERT?  — Technology is the friend of the hacker!  They have systems working 24/7-365 trying to hack into your data.  Hackers make their living staying up-to-date on the latest and greatest technology and security protocols.  What do you have in place to protect your stuff?

Here are some tips to help you protect your STUFF:

  1. Better Password Tactics

Don’t daisy-chain your password.  What is daisy-chaining?  It’s when you use the same password for multiple accounts.  80% of people over 18 reuse the same password across several accounts.

What to hear something really scary???  In 2016 the most popular password was… 123456 – certainly not hard to break nor very secure.  If you consider the low-end consumer computes can hit a website’s authentication system with billions (yes, BILLIONS) of passwords PER SECOND.  “Passw0rd” isn’t going to do much in the way of keep you from getting hit!

Even if your email address hasn’t been exposed in a data breach, by the way you can check it on, you should take extra precautions.  Here’s why you need to take those precautions:

If spammers gain control of your email, then the next logical step is to commandeer other accounts, retail, finanacial and more.  Think of the old mailbox scam where they would steal your mail out of your mailbox and fill out a “pre-approved” credit card with a new address.  Sadly, email works the same only it’s EASIER to do!  TIP:  Don’t use your name or email address for login purposes when possible.  Sometimes, you’re required to do so with vendors, but make the exception!

  1. Two-Factor Authentication

You probably use this now… your bank sends you a code to your cell phone to enter on their site into your account.  That’s two-facotr authentication, 1) log into your account 2) enter the code sent to you… simple right!

Well… yes but not if the hacker has your email account or has your phone AND your password.  BUT, with 2-factor authentication you are a much less attractive target. 

If you were a predator (hacker) and saw walking down the road a spiny hedgehog waddling down the road next to a plump piglet?  Which would you rather be?  Me?  I’d rather be the hedgehog!  Be save and BE THE HEDGEHOG!

  1. Stop Oversharing!

Just recently on the news here in Columbia they talked about oversharing.  Oversharing when you’re not home over social mediums.  Remember “Home Alone”?  The would-be bugalars were “casing the joint” watching the house to see when the owners would be gone?  Well, when you over-share you are doing the work for them!!! 

“We’re having a GREAT TIME in Florida!!!” – post that AFTER you return… not while you’re at the beach or at Disney 14,000 miles from all your prize possessions!  Also… tell other family not to over-share your location by posting your photos and comments to them.  Photos can have geotagged

What if while you’re on the beach and a moving van pulls into your driveway and starts to pack up your house?  Would your neighbors stop them?  Would you stop those same movers if they were at your neighbors house?

  1. Have Nothing to Ransom

Ransomware is going to do nothing but INCREASE!  It’s been on the rise since 2016 and that trend will continue.  60% of businesses report attaches in the first half of 2017 alone.

Ransomware encrypts every file on your hard drive and then instructs you to pay the ransom to get your data back.

First rule of thumb:  never make a payment to get your files back.  15% of those who paid, NEVER got their data back.  Contact a resolution expert first!

Second rule:  Back Up your files… DAILY!

  1. Enroll in Alert Programs

All banks and credit card companies offer these programs, some are even free!  These services make fraud a momentary crisis that’s easily contained because the minute those fraudulent charges occur you are notified.

Transaction alerts are a great benefit…every charge you make pops up on your phone or email with purchase details.  We’ve all seen the Discovery commercial where the lady receives a notification on her phone, which is NOT hers… and with a simple push of a button the transaction is rewound and rejected.

  1. 3 M’s of Account Safety

Minimize your exposure risk:  Don’t overshare on social media, don’t authenticate yourself to anyone unless you are in control of the interaction, safeguard your passwords and documents that can be used to hijack your identy.

Monitor your accounts: Check your credit report religiously, track your credit score, review major accounts daily if possible.

Manage the damage: Make certain that you are on top of an incursion into your identiy quickly and get professionals involved quickly to help you resolve identity compromises.

The dangers re real and can have a profoundly negative affect to your financial well being.  Take a few minutes and check your “hackablity” level… are your passwords too simple?  Are you using the same password on multiple sites?  Are they a pass phrase with numbers and capital letters.