Protect Your Identity and Data

Protect Your Information After a Data Breach

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When data breaches happen, your personal information could be in jeopardy, so you’ll want to be proactive about protecting your personal information if a company or organization you use is a victim of a cybersecurity breach.

Here are a few reminders about what you might see if you’ve been affected, steps you can take right now to be more safe and tips for protecting your data for the long term.

What to look for

Even if your information is never actually used by identity thieves, the breach can still affect you in inconvenient and time-consuming ways:

  • Bank cards are cancelled and re-issued. A data breach can prompt a retailer or financial institution to cancel and re-issue the cards you have. You’ll want to watch your mail carefully since notices and explanations may look like a mass mailing, so it’s easy to dismiss it as unimportant. Also, once you do have a new card, you’ll need to update anywhere you may be using that card as a payment online.
  • Missing monthly payments. If you make automatic monthly payments, you may be contacted by loan originators, creditors or your bank regarding late payments because your card was cancelled, your account was closed or assets were frozen to protect against the breach. You’ll want to be vigilant so that no late payments put a dent in your credit score.

What can you do right now?

Be vigilant and prevent your information from being subjected to a data breach and related identity theft:

  • Review debit and credit statements for odd charges, even small ones. Cyber criminals often test accounts with small transactions (often called “pings”) to make sure they are active.
  • Consider paying with a credit card. Credit card companies cannot hold you liable for fraudulent purchases made on a credit card. This makes it a lot easier and quicker to recoup losses than when using a debit card and recouping losses from a bank.
  • Use unique passwords for all online accounts. When passwords are reused, one business data breach can open up vulnerabilities across many completely unrelated websites, such as a retail account or banking website.

What can you do ongoing?

Consider what professional security analysts consider to be best practices for keeping data and systems safe. Steve Sanford, ARAG® IT Security Analyst, considers the following to be best practices:

  • Encrypt all digital storage devices at the disk level. Use encryption to protect all data, regardless of the content or storage type, including storage in the “cloud.”
  • Mobile devices should be equipped with commands that deactivate the device if they’re lost or stolen. Use the common services offered by your phone provider to encrypt and lock your device and allow for wiping all data from the device if it is lost or stolen.
  • Erase a device’s memory before it is discarded. Employ a competent IT professional to ensure that your data is completely removed from any device you discard.
  • When you send confidential data electronically, encrypt the data using passwords that combine letters, numbers and symbols. Use an encryption service to send confidential data such as Microsoft® Office 365 mail service.
  • Encrypt your home wireless network. Protect all of your wireless networks using “WPA2” security.
  • For access to office networks, use a security process that requires two forms of identification to access secure client data. Make sure that you protect your office computers by requiring that they all have strong passwords.
  • See a competent IT professional if you have questions. If you are unfamiliar with setting up any of the technical safeguards needed to protect your confidential information, hire a competent IT Security professional and test your systems with an annual audit of your security.
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