Published February 19, 2013
When it comes to cyber attacks, size doesn’t matter. Tech giant Apple admitted Tuesday it was hacked by the same group that hit social-networking monster Facebook in January, and Burger King and Jeep’s Twitter accounts got hit Monday.
These security breaches are the latest in a string of attacks hitting high-profile companies including New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
For most people it’s not a matter of if they will have their identity stolen, but when, says Adam Levin, co-founder and chairman of Identity Theft 911.
“No company is ultimately immune to this,” Levin says. “A lot of the times this happens from spear fishing—employees at companies are opening things they think are from people within their organization or things that they think are related to their companies. They open the door, and we get killed.”
While everyone is vulnerable to an attack when online, there are steps you should take to minimize compromising your information. Levin warns to be overly careful when deciding to click on a link and to limit the amount of sensitive data stored on a computer. There’s no reason to have your Social Security number, for example, stored on your computer.
“The minute someone gains access to that, they have an option on your life,” Levin says. “Even if you do everything right, you may be on the wrong database at the wrong moment when the wrong person gains access.”
Levin also stresses to monitor every aspect of your online personal information including bank and credit card statements, and to stay on top of these accounts by signing up for notifications from your various institutions.
He also recommends not to geo-tag photos on Facebook or on your phone, and to turn off the location services on your phone. If hackers decipher the code behind the photos, that also gives them other personal information.
Limit the information you actually put out on Facebook, including your birth date and financial information, despite the sites’ new e-commerce features.
“Don’t give out too much information, because there are little squibs of info you give out there that hackers can use as the answers to secret questions that take you to various sites,” Levin warns.
When you change a password for a social media account, also remember to change your email passwords. These are all linked and allow hackers access to change your passwords if you don’t act quickly enough, he says.
Finally, check with your bank and employer to see if they have a damage control program available in the event your information is compromised. This will help you to pick up the pieces if your identity is eventually stolen, Levin says.
Despite all of the recent hackings, Levin says consumers won’t be quick to give up on their social media or less inclined to use financial institutions that were breached.
“People have short memories. Even if there is initial huge coverage of something.”