Friday, July 27, 2018

Hackers and You

Hacking can be anything from a minor annoyance to a major personal crisis depending on how you are impacted by such an event.  Next week we will welcome(?) thousands of hackers to Las Vegas with some high-level hacking challenges, a boatload of educational opportunities, and probably a bit of mayhem (like the easy peasy hacking of voting machines they did last year...this was an above-board hack as part of the conference, not a clandestine, illegal hack).  You can bet the Feds were very interested in the event as a whole as they are each year.

On a large scale, there isn't much you as an individual can do about hackers and their hacks that generally affect tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people in the US each year.  But there are many things you can do to protect yourself as an individual from these hacks of the systems you use everyday...

  • Keep your cell phone/tablet/computer password protected (and don't forget to log out of secure things like bank account apps after you use them).
  • Use two-factor authentication on all of your online accounts.
  • Don't use the same password/pin number for every single account you have.
  • Use encryption if possible with your emails, messaging, and other online communications.
  • Use a (highly rated) VPN whenever you use public wifi.
  • Regularly change the password on your home wifi router.
  • Don't download any files you did not request or receive from someone unknown to you. 
  • Don't open scam emails.
  • Keep your software and security programs up to date.
  • When you pass on your old digital devices (cell phones, tablets, computers) get rid of all of your info on these devices.  Do a factory reset or wipe the hard drive to ensure your personal info is erased.
  • Come up with false (but memorable to you) answers to security questions (things like your mother's maiden name is easy enough for a hacker to find online).
  • Log into each service separately (instead of using Facebook to log into many of your online services, for example).
  • If you have highly secret information, consider using an "air gap" computer.
  • Always keep back-up copies of important digital files, password protected of course.
  • Be sure you do your online shopping through reputable companies (and be sure if you log into one of these sites you have the actual real website address, some scammers will take a popular site and change one letter or the domain suffix to catch the unwary).
  • Never give your passwords/user names/account numbers/other secure personal information to anyone who calls or emails asking for this information no matter who they say they are.

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