The world was focused in early September 2017 on the hurricane that hit the South Florida Coast, and rightfully so.
However, another storm was brewing, and continues to rage: cyber crime.
The most recent storm was an attack on one of the largest credit bureaus of the United States, Equifax. Over 143 million Americans were affected by this data breach. This is the mother of attacks on the cyber world. The credit bureau holds information on not only the credit line of people and their scores, but also social security numbers, addresses, past addresses, family members, bank accounts, and some criminal records. All of this information can be used to conduct identity theft, file false tax returns, and open fraudulent credit and bank accounts. It is extremely difficult and tedious to recover from identity theft, so it is critical to take action now.
More consumers than not have been affected. So the next question is: What should they do about it?
As an experienced cybersecurity veteran, I have expert insight and knowledge into what consumers need to do in order to protect themselves and their family from this devastating data breach.
Related: Uncovering silent cyber risk
A simple action plan
Now, the everyday consumer should be considering how best protect themselves.
The most immediate action to take is to utilize a feature called security freeze, or a credit freeze. This allows consumers to basically freeze credit and release it only with a dedicated personal pin code. They will need to go online to each of the big three credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian and purchase/sign-up for a security freeze. A security freeze is the best way to protect personal identity and prevent criminals from opening accounts in someone else's name.
Next, consumers should set up a fraud alert through one of the big three credit bureaus. This will put a 90-day renewable alert on an individual's credit report and will make lenders contact those individuals directly before opening an account in their name. One bureau will alert the other two of a request for fraud alert, so it’s unnecessary to request one at all three. Again, this added layer of verification will help protect personal information and identity by making it more difficult for criminals to be successful. Criminals seek the easiest profit and will move on to the next when an individual's information poses any added difficulty.
One last consumer protection tip
Everyone should put as many factors of authentication on their credit line, bank account, and all other sensitive information. Be vigilant and monitor banks accounts and credit reports for any suspicious activity regularly. Proper cyber hygiene and awareness goes a long way toward protecting individual and families.
Unlike hurricanes, cyber crime doesn’t occur within the bounds of a 5-month season. Cyber criminals are always looking to exploit and gain access to consumer information, which is why members of the public should take as many precautions as possible to protect themselves.