When the Identity Theft Resource Center was founded, cybercrime and identity theft weren’t quite the “household name” hot topics that they are today. While the various forms of the crime aren’t going away anytime soon, what has happened is a cultural shift towards protecting your information and watching out for your data security.
The old recommendations for security-minded consumers used to sound pretty hard to follow. They were enough to make anyone question why they’d ever get online or carry a smartphone in the first place. Fortunately, as security has become easier to adapt to and there’s more of a public conversation surrounding it, the methods that we now consider best practices and good habits are becoming part of our lives.
While shredding old documents and making sure your privacy settings are set to the highest level might seem like common sense now, there are still a few things that are up in the air. New forms of cybercrime and new tactics on the part of hackers mean we still have “new” behaviors to adopt, just as we did years ago.
1. Two-Factor Authentication – If you’d told someone back when the ITRC was first formed that they would someday press a few buttons on their portable pocket telephone to pay for their groceries, they might have looked at you funny. But that reality is nowhere, and along with it comes the need for two-factor authentication. Some people think it’s a little bit of a hassle to have to login, wait for a text message, and then type the contents of that text into your login screen, but that is one of the best ways to ensure that a criminal isn’t remotely logging into your account.
2. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) – While it might seem time-consuming to install and then activate a VPN every time you need to go online. However, it’s a great way to keep others from tracking your internet activity, especially if you’re connecting over public Wi-Fi networks. VPNs also let you view your content when you’re traveling, even if you’re in an area where that content isn’t under license, and they can help keep advertisers—or hackers—from tracking your internet searches for marketing purposes.
3. Password Protection – One of the easiest steps you can take in protecting your data just might be passwords, even though they’re certainly nothing new. The only new thing about passwords is our current understanding that strong, unique passwords are still not the norm; far too many people still rely on codes like “password” or “1234” when they’re trying to protect their accounts. It’s not only important to lock up your account with a long and random password that you only use on one account, but you really should change your passwords from time to time in order to thwart hackers.
While great strides have been made in informing consumers about privacy dangers, there’s still a long way to go. As cybercriminals come up with new methods to attack your data, we will continue to spread the word about ways to protect yourself.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.