Equifax is reporting a data breach effecting at least 148 million people, or about half of the U.S. population.
The breach discovered at the end of July includes very sensitive information. Included in the data hackers exposed in the data breach is social security numbers, credit card numbers, home and business addresses, and driver’s license numbers.
What can I do to protect myself from the Equifax Data Breach?
Equifax has set up a website at EQUIFAXSECURITY2017.COM to present news and details on the breach as well as allow you to set up for complementary monitoring of your accounts. This is a place to start.
A Data Breach is nothing new, so in addition to credit monitoring, there are many steps you can take to secure your own information.
USE A SECURITY VAULT AND CHANGE EVERY PASSWORD
It is important to use different passwords for sensitive information such your bank and credit card accounts. If a hacker is able to compromise one system, say for your bank, and you use the same password for others then they may be able to use one bit of information to access the others.
A personal password vault will randomly generate passwords and safely store them for use when accessing specific online resources. Trying to memorize complex different passwords for various sites is difficult and the vault is an easy way to solve this. Some examples of password vaults are LastPass and Sticky Password. There are many good ones on the market.
UPDATE YOUR SECURITY QUESTIONS
Most sites offer security questions that are used to validate your account. If information is exposed like your birthdate or where you live a hacker may be able to use this. Make sure your security questions require different information than what was exposed in the breach.
KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR ACCOUNTS – EVEN AFTER THE BREACH
Hackers can be patient. They might not use information right after a breach has occurred. Your personal information may also be sold on the dark web at first meaning that it will change hands a number of times before an actual attempt is made to steal your money and assets.
It is important to keep an eye on accounts now and down the road to make sure there is no unusually activity. Banks and credit cards often given a limited time to file a report so it is important to discover any unauthorized use of accounts as quickly as possible.
CREDIT MONITORING SERVICES
Equifax is offering a free credit monitoring service. These systems work by monitoring your personal information and sending out alerts anytime a new account is opened or there is other unusual activity. There are a number of these type of products – available both free and for a fee. It is important to do some research and see what meets your needs.
The elephant in the room – are online services like credit protection safe from a data breach?
This data breach is a little different than many of the credit card, store cards and other types that we have heard about over the past several years. First, you have no choice in working with credit bureaus since they automatically have your information if you have any kind of credit accounts. Second, Equifax offers credit protection services and since they themselves were breached it does raise questions.
There is no type of cyber security that is 100% effective. Like the lock on your front door there is someone somewhere that can still get in. A lot of the approach of cyber security is “get a bigger lock and maybe they will go to the neighbors”. While this can be effective, a firm like Equifax is especially targeted because the information they have is vast and since you can’t change things like your social security number it is very sought-after data.
It is important that these companies work to get their systems as secure as possible.
William (Bill) Sikkens has been a technology expert for KXL on the Morning Show with Steve and Rebecca since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.
Got a technology question or comment for Bill? Follow him on Twitter @sikkensw