My last article was an explanation of the differences between various computer support options. Along the way there was a pleasant comment regarding my call for people to exercise caution regarding computer security.
That got me thinking: How many of us really know the effects of having our personal data breached? Well, according to a 2010 Federal Trade Commission report, identity theft ranked No. 1 among consumer complaints (ftc.gov/opa/2011/03/topcomplaints.shtm), with more than 250,000.
The data show us that the majority of ID theft, roughly 50 percent, comes from lost or stolen wallets, dumpster diving and people close to the victim. This amounts to about $20,000 per incident, not to mention the mental anguish, business issues, as well as possible family and employment challenges a person will face.
Unsecured documents can take on many forms, including information shared in online: emails, chat rooms, Web storefronts, online gaming, Web email accounts, peer-to-peer file sharing programs, online banking … the list goes on and on.
A few recent examples of the more severe breaches is the Sony PlayStation hack, which resulted in personal data for more than 100 million people being stolen. How about Ford and Experian—both credit companies with databases containing personal financial information?
But, really, one of the most concerning yet easiest ways to get deep personal information was revealed by CBS News a few years ago in a newscast (youtube.com/watch?v=nM6R4gi8Q9Q) that showed how business-grade copy machines store images of files copied.
So what can we do to limit the possibility of our own computers being hacked or someone we know downloading our information to use against us? It starts with an anti-virus program with a firewall, as mentioned in a prior article. There are many great free, as well as subscription, versions.
Next, make sure you are aware of the people using your computer and what they’re doing, the websites they’re going to and the programs being used. If you bank online either through the computer or your smartphone, make sure to password-protect the computer and phone so if either is stolen, information isn’t easily accessible. Also, make sure to change your most critical passwords frequently.
In the end, it may pay to have someone on your side helping to repel the barbarians at the gate. With that in mind, you may want to look into a company that provides identity-theft protection services.