Hackers aren't always after your money. In recent years, there's been a growing black market demand for personal records, including names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers and other personal information. Once purchased, nefarious individuals use this information to open new financial accounts in the victim's name. To keep your identity safe from hackers, follow these seven tips.
#1) Beware of Suspicious Emails
When checking your email, avoid clicking links in messages from suspicious or otherwise untrustworthy senders. Hackers often use email as a phishing vehicle to steal users' identities. A phishing email, for example, may look like an email sent from your credit card company, but it was actually sent by a hacker. When you click the link included in the message, you may inadvertently install malware on your computer or provide the hacker with information like your account username and password.
#2) Keep Your Devices Updated
Update all devices that you use to connect to the internet and transmit or receive personal information. Desktop computers, laptop computers, smartphones and tablets all use an operating system to provide basic functionality. In addition to managing software and hardware operations, the operating system also protects against cyber threats. If it's outdated, however, it leaves the device susceptible to identity-stealing malware.
#3) Use a Proxy Server
Rather than connecting directly to the internet, go through a proxy server. Also known simply as a proxy, this service works to protect your privacy by acting as the middle man between you the websites that you visit. After connecting to a proxy server, websites that you visit won't be able to read your Internet Protocol (IP) address. Rather, they'll see the proxy's IP address. This is important because hackers can identify your geographic location, internet service provider (ISP) and more using your IP address.
#4) Don't Reuse Logins
It's certainly easier to use a single username and password combination for all your online accounts, but this isn't recommended because it increases the risk of identity theft. If a hacker knows your login for one account, he or she can use it to access your other accounts. Always use a unique username and password when creating new accounts.
#5) Create Complex, Long Passwords
Don't use a simple password for your account logins. A study conducted by the wireless service provider Verizon found that 81 percent of malicious data breaches involve weak or stolen passwords. To protect against identity theft, create complex, long passwords, preferably using numbers, letters and special characters.
#6) Only Trust HTTPS Websites
You shouldn't give your personal information to just any website. The site should be operated by a legitmate, reputable business, and it should use the Hypertext Transfer Secure Protocol (HTTPS). With this protocol, data transmitted to and from the site is encrypted so that hackers can't decipher or use it. If you submit a form containing your personal information, you don't have to worry about a hacker intercepting it. Only the website has the decrypt key, so only it can decipher the form. The HTTP prefix in the site's address indicates the use of this protocol.
#7) Two-Step Verification
From Google and Yahoo to Amazon and Facebook, many websites and web services support two-step verification. This security feature protects against unauthorized account access by requiring two methods of verification. For example, you may need to enter your username and password as well as a PIN sent to your email address or phone.
These seven tips will allow you to use the internet without exposing your personal information to prying eyes. Most important, though, you should monitor your credit so that you'll know if and when someone opens a credit account in your name. By quickly responding to identity theft, you can mitigate the damage and easily restore your reputation.