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Data breaches: How to keep your digital information safe

Digital data breaches go well beyond debit or credit card theft. In fact, it is fair to say that debit and credit card theft is the least of your worries.

Chris Albright

Your bank and credit card companies have safeguards in place to return your funds to you, but most other data cannot be retrieved once breached. Even when stolen data is recovered and new security is put in place, the breached information is in the hands of the hacker.

With the increasing amount of private, sensitive and business-critical data stored digitally, this can be detrimental. Chris Albright of CMIT Solutions of Centreville has some tips for minimizing your risk of a data breach.

Understand the Need for Security

Many businesses and everyday individuals severely underestimate their level of risk. You might be a small or mid-sized business, but the data you store digitally can be a hacker’s goldmine. Take a look at some of the major organizations who have been breached in the last couple of years.

  • The Pennsylvania hack of the Department of Education’s website compromised the information of 360,000 employees.
  • The City of Atlanta’s recent ransomware attack halted essential municipal services, leading to ATL airport shutting down their Wi-Fi.
  • Due to deceiving third-party agreements, 50 million Facebook users unknowingly had their posts, private messages, and data accessed without their consent.
  • The 2016 Banner Health cyberattack exposed the private health information of 3.7 million patients in 27 locations across the nation. This type of data can sell for 10 times more than credit card information.
  • The Equifax credit reporting bureau was breached in 2017 leading to 147.9 million Americans’ personal information being leaked, placing all involved at higher risk for identity theft.
  • The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack was the largest in history and affected thousands of businesses and individuals from around the globe.

If these organizations can be breached, many of whom must comply with strict industry digital data storage regulations, SMBs and everyday online accounts are vulnerable as well.

Reducing Your Risk

First and foremost, there is no way to 100 percent guarantee that your data will never be breached. but there is much you can do to reduce the likelihood:

Passwords: Change your passwords at least twice a year. Use strong passwords, preferably with a password manager that encrypts your passwords. Password protect all electronic devices, as many of them autologin to all the accounts you’ve logged into. Also, upload a lockout feature so that if your device is lost or stolen, passwords are erased.

Delete: Delete old digital accounts that you no longer use, or you may forget about them and the information they contain. Also, create a list of all online accounts and mobile apps that require logins. Even a one-time purchase to an e-commerce site can lead to a data breach, from a place you don’t even remember ordering from.

Be mindful of what you share: Your Facebook profile alone shares information such as where you were born, where you went to school, your kids’ names, your pets’ names and more. These are often the answers to three-factor authentication designed to improve your security. Never ever share, electronically or in person, your login information. Look through your Facebook messenger feed, you may be surprised at the amount of personal information you share there. You may want to reconsider going forward.

Never open suspicious emails: It’s easier said than done as hackers are good at sounding legitimate. This is particularly challenging at work where you won’t know everyone who sends you an email. If you open something that feels fishy, follow your company’s procedures to scan your device. If at home, run a security scan on your own.

Improve your security: Upgrade to newer software and technology, such as from a magnetic strip debit card to an EMV card if it’s available. Upgrade your website with an SSL Certificate. Perform all software and app updates ASAP, as they contain security patches and updates. Encrypt your data. Restrict remote login. Set up automated alerts for abnormal activity, such as on your debit card when you travel or make an unusually large purchase. Have a digital security professional scan your network and devices for security risks and set up an automated system for determining a hack or data breach.

Stay up to date: Online security is constantly evolving, so you must keep up. What minimizes your risks today may not be relevant in a year or less.

We are at a point at which we don’t think twice about our most private and personal information being stored digitally. For example, you may even communicate with your physician via email or use health and fitness apps in which you store in-depth health information. Just a decade ago we would have been a bit more mindful, but the convenience and functional factors have become of such great benefit that we will continue to store more information digitally, not less. This means data breach security must be top of mind for personal use, professional use and even for the kids in our family.

CMIT Solutions of Centreville provides a strategic approach to IT consulting that improves the performance of your business technology in the most cost-effective way possible. Assisting businesses across Northern Virginia, CMIT Centreville can help you achieve the fastest return on your technology investment. Call 703-881-7738 today to see how CMIT Centreville can help your business stay in business.

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