Reports of personal data being stolen from major retailers are on the rise. In September 2014 alone, the public learned of potential security breaches at Google, leaked personal celebrity photos and a date breach at Home Depot.
These incidents illustrate the importance of protecting our personal information. Sophisticated criminals can now access information on just about anyone, as those who understand the complexities of network systems and their vulnerabilities may be able to steal personal information.
A proactive approach to safeguarding sensitive data is the best way for consumers to protect themselves from cyber criminals.
Passwords and PIN codes are needed for so many things today. It can be tempting to use a universal password across for all of your accounts, but should someone figure out your password, he or she then has access to all of your accounts. Although it can test your memory, use separate passwords for each account. Use symbols, case changes and numbers. In addition, periodically change your passwords to further safeguard yourself from hackers.
Use only encrypted sites
Encryption is a computer term for protected sites that hide personal information with a cipher or code. Encrypted websites will feature a lock symbol on the address bar or have the prefix "https://" preceding the URL. Encryption reduces but does not eliminate the risk that your sensitive information will be stolen. Hackers still may find ways to circumvent encrypted sites, but such sites are still your best bet when entering sensitive personal information online.
Use credit cards when making purchases
Credit cards and debit cards make access to money quite easy. Debit cards withdraw money directly from your bank account, and hackers who gain access to your debit card and PIN can then drain your bank account before you're even aware there has been a data breach. But when credit card data is breached, the credit card company is responsible for any losses and your money is still safe and sound in your account. Credit cards offer consumers far more protection from fraudulent purchases than debit cards, so only use credit cards when making purchases online.
Protect your sensitive information
Security breaches can occur when consumers share too much of their personal information. Never give out PIN codes or passwords to others. Do not share social security numbers or other forms of identification over the phone or in public places, and avoid sharing confidential information through email. In addition, password protect computers and other digital devices, including smartphones, to further reduce the risk that potentially sensitive information is stolen by cyber criminals.