Someone Is Watching - Is Your Identity Safe?

Wonderful technological advances make life easier, more convenient and multiply the possibilities for citizens of the modern world. However, technology also casts a shadow; Protecting your online security is a growing concern today. Hackers, spammers and cyber-criminals are getting more and more sophisticated, their attacks more audacious and insidious.

Not too long ago it was enough to have a simple password. People often used the same password everywhere for convenience' sake, which we strongly discourage. A lot of people never changed their passwords.

This is barely sufficient today. It's like living in a glass house. Sooner or later, it will get smashed. Some say, 'I don't have anything to hide, or anything valuable in my account. Why would anyone want to hack me?'.

The fact is that anyone's personal identity can be stolen and used to commit a crime, do something illegal, or even worse, something that would embarrass you in front of your parents. Ouch. Social security numbers, credit card information, online bank verification information: all this is vulnerable if a hacker gets access to your system.

Technically savvy people are not exempt from attack.

Mat Honan, a tech writer for Wired, was hacked by a kid who wanted to claim his @mat Twitter handle! This 19-year-old systematically wiped out all Honan's data: his Google account and devices erased. How? The kid called Apple, pretending to be Honan, reset his Apple password, remotely accessed his laptop and from there obliterated his online life. In an hour.

A few months ago M.I.T. incubator servers were hacked and shut down. And we've all heard the hacking stories. Who hasn't seen the online bank warnings when logging on, telling us about the latest tactic the cyber-criminals are using to try to get your credentials, to get your money?

So what can we do?

Passwords first:

Create a complicated password. Nothing recognizable that can be guessed. Not yours, your phone number nor your kid's name, either. Use an automated password manager. Change it often. At least every couple of months. Keep a written copy in a drawer somewhere. Use different ones for different sites.

Use 2 or 3 step authentication wherever possible.

The security question is a potential weakness. Use an answer that nobody could possibly guess. With half your life out on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (to name a few), a dedicated hacker can track down plenty of information about you. Your answer to the security question should be something totally unpredictable; preferably unrelated to the question, a connection only you can draw.

Finally test your bank and other companies that have your data. Call up and ask for a password reset, and check how they verify your identity before divulging personal information. If dissatisfied, lodge a complaint; if nothing changes, put out a petition for other customers to join in and request change.

When YOU choose to divulge personal information, think twice whom you're giving it to. Remember; your security is your responsibility. Prevention is better than cure.

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