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Tech Talk: How do you protect yourself from identity theft?

By Dawit Lemma

The advancement of technology and our daily activities closely tied to it makes it harder to live without technology. On the other hand, technology makes the life of the identity thief easier, as identity thieves can get away with their crimes without a trace across the globe.

You might be one of the 110 million victims that suffered from the Target Breach, or at Michael’s, or in any other online or in store purchases. The online security threat has become vast and organized that even the big tech companies like Microsoft and Apple have been the victims of those attacks. These kinds of reports make us feel like we’re no longer safe shopping online or in a store. These broad and organized threats are expected to increase in the coming years, as those thefts not only steal our money but also ruin our reputation on many levels.

So how do we protect ourselves from those identity thieves?

Even though we can’t totally avoid them, we can still try to protect ourselves from being an easy target to these predators. Here are some tips that are meant to help you protect yourself from such attacks.

1. Make your account passwords more complicated and longer so that it takes a bit longer and harder to crack your password. Do not use the same password or user name for many accounts. In case one account password or user name is hacked, make the thief’s ability to crack the other account not so easy. Its helpful changing your debit card pin number at least once every 6 months, even it is recommended to change debit/credit card pin numbers once a year. This is recommended especially when you make purchases in unsafe ways. Unfortunately, in the US the credit card companies, or banks still use magnetic strip credit cards that are easy to hack and duplicate compared to the chip credit card European countries use.

2. Even though more of the electronic products we’re using are becoming handy and wireless, they’re less secure compared to wired networks. Wireless networks are an easy target thieves. DO NOT leave your WiFi open, use longer and more complicated passwords. Make sure your passwords are encrypted (could be WPA or WPA2). If you have to use public hot spot, use secure sites that encrypt your personal information (“https://” make sure the ‘s’ is there after http).

3. Hide the SSID so that your wireless network is not visible (though you have to enter the SSID and password manually when new a device is added to the network).

4. Use antivirus and anti Malware on your computer and scan your computer on a regular basis. Especially after downloading new software or apps. There are some good anti viruses for free. AVG is the most common and popular free anti virus software.

5. Be careful when you download unknown software online, they can add additional harmful malware, adware, or spyware without your knowledge. Unchecked (deselected) unwanted tool bars come with application software. Make sure the software’s are known and thrust worthy. Now even the big internet browsers like Firefox and Chrome download adware without our knowledge to collect data from us.

6. Avoid sites that offer free stuff like iPad, iPhone, coupons, or offer lucrative online jobs with no skill.

7. Avoid using your last name, birthday, and social security number unless you have to.

8. Never Email your financial information like bank account and social security numbers.

9. Don’t let browsers save your password, and always log out of your accounts when done.

Dawit Lemma is a student in Computer Technology, who is passionate about software and web developing.

Categories: Uncategorized

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