Dennis BeaverFebruary 13, 2021 • By Dennis Beaver

Hardly a day goes by without a story of a major data breach on a business, government agency or individual. And, like seeing reruns of the same old television series over and over again, I think that most of us grow tired of being lectured for not paying enough attention to computer security.

“Lana” felt that way, writing, “I ignored the advice about computer and mobile device security, feeling scolded every time I heard a recommendation. And then I got hacked, became an identity theft victim, and it took me two years to clean up the mess.

“Dennis, with your sense of humor, why not write an article telling people how to be hacked? I’ll bet that will get their attention.”

With that request in mind, I asked Paige Hanson, Chief of Cyber Safety Education at NortonLifeLock to explore the ways of getting hacked and becoming a victim of identity theft.

We Leave Digital Trails Which Tell All About Us

“We are producing more data about ourselves than ever in the past which leaves a digital trail that is vulnerable to being compromised,” Hanson points out, and highlights some of the ways we make it easier for a fraudster to take control of our digital world:

1 – Take all surveys of your likes and dislikes.

Consequences: By responding, you have revealed significant personal information about yourself which establishes knowledge based authentication. A fraudster now has your email address and sends a “Forgot my Password” mail which says, “Answer these security questions to be sent your password.” It asks for your mother’s maiden name, your first car, first pet’s name, and when you answer honestly, you are making it easier for your accounts to be taken over.

2 – Keep your social media privacy setting set to public.

Consequences: This will make sure everyone knows what you are doing, every photo you post, who your friends are, all of the personal details you share and possibly where you live. A hacker will have complete access to the personal details making you an easier target for identity theft.

3 – Don’t update your software – your phone’s operating system, home computer, or your apps. Absolutely do not keep your virus software current!

Consequences: One of the most common ways cyber criminals gain access to your systems, aside from clicking on malicious links, is through out-of-date software. As software companies discover flaws in their system, updates are issued. By not installing them, you are open to being hacked. Out-of-date software invites malware infections and other cyber issues, such as ransomware.

4 – Do not password protect your smartphone or mobile devices.

Consequences: You get coffee at a restaurant, leaving the device on a table. With no password, anyone who steals it will have instant access to all your personal information.

5 – Have the same user name and password for all the sites you visit.

Consequences: If fraudsters acquire that information, they will use it on popular sites in an effort to gain access to your online accounts. The solution is to use different passwords for each account, and most people don’t do this. A password manager solves the problem.

6 – Transact everything over public Wi-Fi to make sure the owner of the Wi-Fi site can see your online activity, what websites and links you’ve been on.

Consequences: They send you a link concerning something that you were interested in and you click. It is called spear phishing and they’ve now obtained access to your digital life.

7 – Store on your mobile device and physical wallet as much personal information about yourself and family as possible, including Social Security numbers for the family, driver’s license, home address, and so on.

Consequences: That way, if stolen, it will so much easier for the entire family to be hacked!

8 – When working from home, let your children download games, and programs on your work device.

Consequences: They might not be compatible with your employer’s approved downloads and could leave your company vulnerable to being hacked. You could lose your job!

How To Make Things Worse When You’ve Been Hacked

One you have been hacked or data stolen, here’s how to deepen your trouble:

1 – Do nothing. Especially do not contact your lender, credit card company, bank or law enforcement. Remain connected to the internet.

Consequences: You could be held responsible for anything purchased using your identity. Fraudsters will know what you are doing as you’ve just made new friends and given them your user names and passwords.

2 – Do not back up your files with an external hard-drive, thumb-drive or into the cloud.

Consequences: In the event of a ransomware attack, you could be paying the scammers a great deal of money!

Concluding our chat, Hanson offers this warning:

“Anyone can become a target.”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.