Many recent data breaches at high-profile companies, such as the attacks against U.S. health insurers Premera Blue Cross reported by the news media last week and against Anthem in February, have resulted in cyber criminals stealing the customer information and credit card numbers of millions of Americans. The security decisions made by large organizations are entirely out of your hands, and this lack of control can be quite frustrating. If you're already a little paranoid like me, these breach events can be enough to drive you crazy!
Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that you can take to better control your information and limit the impact of future security incidents. They include:
- Use Many Passwords: Variety is the spice of life, and in the case of passwords it turns out that spice is a very good thing. Be sure to use different passwords on each of your accounts to prevent a security issue with one from affecting the others. If you have trouble remembering them—and who doesn't from time to time—try using a password manager.
- Be Aware of Your Data: Do you know what your current bank account balance is, or how many emails you have in your inbox? If not, how will you be able to tell if these accounts have been affected? Keeping track of your data will make it much easier to respond to anything that goes wrong.
- Set Up Alerts: Many websites offer services where you can sign up to receive text or email alerts based on certain triggers, such as when a certain amount of money is withdrawn from an account. Making use of these is an easy way to quickly get notified in the event that something goes wrong, and they're easy to ignore when you're the one who triggers them.
- Don't Panic: Take a deep breath. There are many other users like you. Even though the prospect of your data floating around on the Internet is unsettling, only a small percentage of the information that is stolen is typically used.
Interested in learning more about cybersecurity? Read "Crack the Code on a Successful Cyber Career" in the Winter 2015 issue of NYIT Magazine.