Basic Cybersecurity Principles to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft and Identity Fraud
Modern technology provides a host of marvelous ways to stay informed and communicate with family, friends, and associates. Unfortunately, it also provides thieves with almost unlimited avenues to engage in identity theft and identity fraud. Identity theft occurs when someone steals some of your most valuable personal information, while identity fraud involves someone using your information in a fraudulent or deceptive manner.
Consider these recent identity theft statistics.
- Over the last 20 years, recorded instances of identity theft have increased by over 584%.
- In 2022, individuals in their 30s reported more identity theft than persons in any other age group.
- On the other hand, individuals in their 40s experienced the largest dollar loss in 2022 due to identity fraud – $840 million!
- Credit card theft is the most common type of identity fraud reported, with 441,822 cases documented in 2022.
3 Cybersecurity Principles
Given that most of us live daily on our electronic devices, it only makes good sense to know some basic cybersecurity principles you can use to protect yourself against those working constantly to steal from you.
1) Try to use only secure networks and websites.
Most of us access the internet using a variety of devices – phones, tablets, laptops, and sometimes even smart appliances. Many cybersecurity experts believe that phones and laptops are the most vulnerable to cyber attacks as we can use them across multiple networks.
If you’re using a public network, try to use a VPN (virtual private network) that routes your data through an encrypted virtual tunnel that disguises your IP address and is secure against external attacks.
When surfing the web, check to see if a website is secure. To do this, look at the address bar and see if it has a lock icon or “HTTPS” in the address. These tell you the site has an SSL (secure socket layer) installed to protect your device against malicious threats.
2) Make use of multi-factor authentication.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires you to use two or more forms of verification to access an online resource such as an account, application, or VPN. In other words, rather than having to provide just a username and password to access a source, you must also provide one or more verification factors to gain access, decreasing the likelihood of a successful cyber attack.
Of course, not every app or website offers this form of security, but by all means, use it when it is available.
3) Make every effort to stay informed.
We live busy, demanding lives, and most of us have neither the time nor the inclination to become IT security experts. But you should make an effort to protect your data by being aware of some of the more commonly used forms of identity theft and identity fraud.
For example, two standard forms of cyber-attacks are phishing and social engineering. Phishing usually involves emails that purport to come from trusted sources like your bank or a well-known retailer used for online shopping. And through email they will try to get valuable information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number, passwords, and other basic, vital information.
Social engineering works much the same way, and sometimes goes hand-in-hand with phishing, with someone claiming to be from a trusted source and trying to extract information from you, such as passwords to accounts and your MFA codes. The main difference between the two is that phishing occurs online, while social engineering can occur in any setting, either online or in person.
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to learn the specific ways in which various entities (your bank, the Social Security Administration, etc.) will communicate with you, and ignore those who use other forms of communication.
Also, as a rule, your trusted contacts will not ask for things like passwords or Social Security numbers. In contrast, a crook posing as an employee or government agency representative will almost always ask for this kind of information, and their questions should be a huge red flag for you.
To avoid id theft and id fraud, never give them this information.
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