It’s scary to think of how vulnerable some of us are online. Even those who really understand cyberspace can become victims when it comes to internet identity theft. Take Matt Honan for instance. If the name doesn’t ring any bells for you, here’s a quick recap: He’s a senior writer for wired magazine who recently had his Twitter, Apple, Amazon, and Gmail accounts all hacked at approximately the same time. If someone as tech savvy as Matt could get his identity stolen, then is there really anything that the rest of us can do to keep ourselves safe? Well actually, yes.
Here are three really simple things you can do to help secure your online identity.
1. Discredit Card
Keeping your credit card number in a website’s database is like sitting on a time bomb. Seriously, the website hasn’t been invented yet that is totally impervious to hackers. If you need to purchase things online, consider working through a third party such as PayPal. It might mean an extra step between browsing and purchasing, but it also means that if the site gets compromised, you’re life won’t fall apart along with it.
Keeping track of all your different passwords can be a real headache. Well, stick it out, because the only person who comes out ahead when you pick the same password for everything is the hacker. Having one of your passwords fall into enemy hands can be bad enough, but let’s take a look at a hypothetical situation: A hacker figures out how to get into your iTunes account. He manages to purchase quite a few things before you figure it out, and it ends up costing you a few hundred dollars. Pretty crummy, huh? Well, let’s say that that same hacker who guessed your password now takes it to a few other sites, including the one for your bank. He plugs that password in and, bam! He’s basically got a hold of all of your personal assets. See, having multiple passwords might mean the difference between losing big, and losing it everything. Also, be sure to change your passwords at least every six months.
3. Insecurity Questions
Most sites that require a password also have ways of getting around them. This way, when you can’t remember which one of your several hundred passwords you used to protect this particular information, you can get a little help. This is where security questions come in. Security questions allow the website to verify your ID by asking you a few questions that you have previously determined the answer to. If you get the answer correct, then an email is sent to you with a link for resetting your password. Unfortunately, if your email account has also been compromised, then the thief now has an easy way in. The problem is that some security questions aren’t that hard to figure out; if the question is “What’s your favorite color,” then there’s a 44% chance that the answer is “blue.” Instead of providing simple answers to these questions, consider getting creative. Misspell things, or mash entire sentences together to form one long word. It doesn’t matter if you answer the question directly or not, it only matters that you can use that answer to verify your identity . . .and a hacker cannot.
Rick Delgado is a freelance writer who is an expert in technology and network security. With over 12 years of experience in the field, Rick is considered one of the foremost authorities on the subject.