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September 10, 2020

Protecting Your Personal Information in an Internet Connected World


In a world where more and more devices and services are interconnected, it may seem impossible to keep your personal information secure. With a little preparation and knowledge, you can actually do a lot to protect this important information.

Here are a couple of statistics that might help you see the importance of taking steps to protect your information. It’s difficult to find hard numbers on hacking attempts, but a Clark School study at the University of Maryland found that, in 2007, there was a hack attempt every 39 seconds on average. That was a long time ago in terms of technology and the Internet, and it has increased substantially, since. The increase has been huge since the COVID-19 Pandemic. According to the FBI, cybercrimes have increased by 300% just since the beginning of the pandemic.

In 2020, the majority of information thefts are not a result of insecure systems that are intruded upon by stealthy hackers. They are a result of social engineering – the art of manipulating people so they give up confidential information. This type of “hack” can be initiated through email, a telephone call, standard mail, or any other communication means. So, be alert to impersonators. A couple of things that you can do are:

  • Ask for identity verification or verify the person’s identity independently.
  • If you receive an email that you were not expecting, before clicking links or opening attachments, confirm that the sender actually sent you an email by communicating with them directly, instead of replying to the email, or, if the email is from a service, visit the service’s website directly, instead of clicking on links in the email.

In addition to being cautious about giving away information to an imposter, you should do some more commonly suggested things to protect your data. Things like:

  • Ensure your personal data is no longer on a device before you dispose of it.
  • Use strong password, keep them private, and don’t use the same password across multiple services.
  • Don’t overshare on social networking sites. The Federal Trade Commission has a thorough, yet concise, article on keeping your personal information secure. I highly recommend everyone reads it – How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure.

Sources:
https://eng.umd.edu/news/story/study-hackers-attack-every-39-seconds
https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/493198-fbi-sees-spike-in-cyber-crime-reports-during-coronavirus-pandemic
https://www.webroot.com/us/en/resources/tips-articles/what-is-social-engineering


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