Hackers and Identity Theft
idtheftquiz.org Article copyright 2012
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Are you the target of a hacker? Understand the threat and learn how to protect your sensitive information so you stay off a hacker’s radar.
The Problem: You do everything to protect yourself from the growing threat of identity theft, but despite your best efforts, the information you transmit from your home computer to online retailers and banking sites is still at risk of being exploited by a particular type of identity thief – the hacker.
Though some companies may employ hackers as means of improving their security infrastructure, the term has become synonymous with any individual who bypasses a computer system’s security measures with the intent of stealing information and using it for malicious purposes. And rightfully so – hackers are a growing threat that everyone must recognize and be cautious of.
The Solution: Understand the threat, learn the necessary precautions, recognize if you are the target of a hacker, and reverse the effects of any identity theft that has taken place.
Action Step I: How am I vulnerable? While most hackers will not take the time to attack you directly, your personal information is at risk nonetheless. Hackers focus their efforts on breaking into the servers of large organizations, such as banks, credit card companies, and online retailers, so if you have ever checked an account balance, made an electric payment, or placed an order online, your personal information is and susceptible to hacking.
Action Step II: Protect yourself: There may not be much you can do to prevent a hacker from infiltrating a retailer’s database, but you can lessen the chance of becoming a victim by doing business exclusively with legitimate online retailers. Many companies who conduct Internet only business go to great lengths to secure data, making them the safest bet for keeping your data out of the hands of hackers. Be sure it’s a reputable company before you buy. Don’t transmit sensitive information over computers at Internet cafes – hackers often load viruses onto these computers and can lift information off of them with relative ease.
Additionally, hackers will often buy old, unwanted computers and troll their hard drives for sensitive information, so if you purchase a new computer, be sure to wipe all personal files off the old one before getting rid of it. The same goes for Blackberries, Palm Pilots, and PDA’s, which often hold both personal and business-related information.
Action Step III: Have I been hacked? Like all forms of identity theft, the first evidence that you have been targeted by a hacker will come in the form of suspicious phone calls, mailings, or e-mails that ask you for account information, your Social Security Number, credit card numbers, etc. If these requests seem even the least bit suspect, report them to the proper authorities – bank, credit card company, police – immediately. Keep your computer free of viruses, worms, and spyware, which hackers will often employ to corrupt files and lift information. Sweep often and keep your anti-virus software up-to-date – hackers develop new viruses everyday, and being prepared for the next threat is often the best defense.
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