If you saw the news this morning, you know that we are now seeing the outcome of years of virtually unchecked hacking of financial and health industry information. While many laws have been passed in an effort to combat cyber crime of this nature, not much has been done to make sure that companies actually comply. So up until now, your information has been “mostly safe”. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t really seem good enough to me.
So who’s at fault? The specific companies? The hackers? The IT industry for changing protocol so quickly? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? That, and how do we make it stop. Well, there’s plenty of blame to go around. But truthfully, no matter how good a company’s security is, the hackers always seem to be one step ahead. The only thing you can really do is stay current.
So what’s current? For consumers, the most important thing you can do, is to have a solid, robust anti-virus program on each of your computers. And keep it up to date. Go online – directly to the creator’s website – and check for updates periodically. Don’t wait for the program to pop up a notice. These can be late or they can be bogus pop-ups that cause viruses themselves. So the best bet is to go to the source and get the updates yourself so you know what you’re downloading.
Know your anti-virus. If you don’t know what anti-virus program you have, find out. Once you know what it is, google it and read up about what it does and how. Know as much about your anti-virus program as you can. The more you know, the less likely it is that you will miss updates or be duped by a scam masquerading as “your anti-virus program”.
ALWAYS know what you are downloading. Go directly to the manufacturer’s website for anything you plan to download. Make sure the company is trusted. Check reviews. Always police your online actions. If something looks different or asks for too much information, close your browser and try again. You may have been redirected. You can always check for that by periodically reading the url to be sure you are still on the main site you believe you are and not some alternate, slightly different one. Check for things like “.uk” instead of “.com” or other minor variations of the url. Hackers try to make their redirects as simple and un-noticeable as possible. Keep an eye for things that look wrong. They probably are.
Read up on current trends in scams. You can look these up online and find out “what’s going around”. Keep yourself informed so you know what to look out for.
Know your techs. Don’t trust people you’ve never met, who are theoretically “from ‘x’ company”, but sound like they are in some call center overseas. Find a local company and get to know them. Find real people you can trust. You wouldn’t hand your credit card to a stranger on the street. You shouldn’t give that information to someone online just because they say they are legit.
It seems counter-intuitive that others are out there hacking and scamming and getting away with it and yet you are the one that has to change. You are the one that has to learn new things and protect your data. But let’s be honest. Who will care more about your personal information than you do?
So find yourself a robust anti-virus program, keep an eye out when online, and find a local company to help you with your tech needs. You’ll be so glad you did.