In the wake of September’s devastating breach of Equifax, we should always be thinking of our personal and private safety. Yes, Equifax did not apply the appropriate patch on their Apache server, but hackers are almost countless, many are incredibly resourceful and all breaches can prove dangerous.
Equifax messed up, but you can expect more breaches of this magnitude and worse because people still do not take information security as seriously as cybercriminals take cybercrime.
When you give your whereabouts or planned location on social media, you are basically inviting criminals to either stalk you personally or break into your home. You may also be inviting your business to be hacked as someone impersonates you or uses your absence in a scam.
When you do not take the precautions, such as sound password and patch management as well as keeping a top rated anti-malware suite up to date, you put your privacy at risk.
Cyber criminals can use your private information to steal your identity or create false identifications for criminals. They can generate credit purchases, equity loans and lines of credit in your name and then default and generally act in ways that ruin your reputation.
For some who have been victimized by these types of criminals, not only was their quality of life affected but also many lost their jobs and were unable to find new ones because of a criminal record that was created by criminals using their identity.
None of us can do anything about the Equifax breach nor future breaches, but we can keep our own computers, laptops, tablets and phones secure. Even though there is no way to make anything "hackproof," by doing our best to secure our own devices, we elevate ourselves above the low-hanging fruit.
Once a hacker has access to your email, regardless of the device, he has access to everything in your emails. Information regarding your personal conversations, credit card numbers, PIN numbers, phone numbers and addresses, family members and friends all are valuable information to criminals.
If the hacker, who has found access to your emails, cannot use the information himself, he or she can sell to those who can use it.
Remember, law-abiding citizens are not the only people to network. Criminals around the planet use the World Wide Web like we do, but they also have the dark web that you and I do not. On the dark web, criminals deal in everything you can imagine and more.
Future columns will discuss these issues further, but for now, allow me to recommend a couple of books: “Future Crimes: Inside the Digital Underground and the Battle for Our Connected World,” by Marc Goodman, will introduce you to many of the risks we are facing today and has some helpful advice to protect yourself and others.
“Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves,” by Adam Levin, will provide general knowledge to protect yourself against identity theft. I believe this will be especially useful to all of us in this time after the Equifax breach.
Just as we learn how to drive, obey traffic laws and think through dangerous traffic situations, we must begin to think of ways to protect ourselves and harness some of the power of computers and information technology for our benefit.
Each of us must learn how to protect ourselves in this digital world.