tech blogDon't get hacked! Identity theft and how to protect yourself online

Online shopping on credit
It was a shocking start to the beginning of 2014 to find that one of the nation’s biggest retailers, during the Christmas shopping season, had a serious widespread credit card security breach. The Target hack affected more than 110 million users, more than half the adults in America, setting them up for identity theft. That was followed by news that Yahoo! was hacked and gave up the email address of thousands of users. And now, security experts believe Target’s computer system was accessed by a phishing expedition. That’s right. Phishing. That’s when malicious hackers send an email asking for information or loaded with malware that once clicked on can breach a computer’s (or network’s) security and gain access to information.

Since then, large publishers like and the Washington Post have been targets by malicious hackers who have stolen data, like emails and passwords, from both employees, contributors and registered users who read and comment on the sites.

If this can happen to big companies, imagine how easy it is for hackers to spam your home computer and with an innocent-looking email find your passwords and banking info or set loose a virus to corrupt your data and your contacts’ data, too?

Even if your credit card was in the Target bunch and you have not seen fraudulent charges on it, you may still become victim to that security breach. Experts say, the data is sold on the black market and other bad guys will make decisions on how to use it. In some cases, you might just get an email that looks like the real thing from Target (or some other company) asking for information. Be wary. It could be a phishing expedition, too. By setting themselves up to appear to be a concerned retailer, the email can ask for details about you or your family members. Warn everyone at home not to open unknown content.

In general, don’t fill out forms from unsolicited businesses or answer chain letters. Chain letters can appear like the ones that say: “Since you are my best friend, here are 25 things you probably don’t know about me.” And they go on to list fill-in-the-blanks for mother’s maiden name, your middle name, the town you were born in, first pet’s name, favorite color, favorite game.”

Do these questions look familiar to you? They should. They are the ones that banks and other companies ask you to create a secure profile. Clearly, someone else is asking, masking it as a “friend letter.” The email will often end with a version of: “Send this to your 5 best friends.” And with it will go spyware that is accessing all that info for later use!

You can protect your personal computer or mobile devices with anti-virus software. It sets up stronger firewalls and can warn you when outsiders are trying to access your info. It’s worth investigating for your protection.

So be careful. You’ve been warned!
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