When we entrust companies with our personal information and they experience a breach, our vulnerability is highlighted. It leaves us all feeling exposed and on some level…helpless. What can you do to safeguard your credit?

From Target to Equifax, Marriott and Anthem, major companies you trust have experienced significant breaches that threaten to expose your personal information.

Perhaps most alarming is when companies admit post-breach that they were aware of security flaws in their system – even before it was infiltrated. Or worse, when companies wait more than a month to disclose the breach to customers and shareholders. Because data breaches are only increasing in both frequency and severity, it’s time you learn how to protect yourself.

What can you do?

First, remain calm. It is possible to keep your personal information safe from breaches by taking the following steps:

  • Freeze Credit Scores. By freezing your credit report, potential creditors - or anyone for that matter - cannot access your credit report. This crucial line of defense decreases the risk of anyone impersonating you and opening new accounts or attempting credit or rental applications in your name.
  • Carefully Monitor Credit. Because there may be a gap in time between when a data breach began and when it was disclosed, check your credit report as meticulously as possible for any suspicious activity. While looking through your report, inform your credit card company’s fraud department if you notice any fraudulent charges, and do so in a timely manner to avoid being held responsible for any of them.
  • Change All Passwords. Following any business’ security breach, it’s safe to assume the hackers stole a large list of passwords. The use of weak passwords and the compounding problem of re-using them on other sites makes us more susceptible to hackers and emphasizes the importance of frequently changing passwords. It’s also crucial to fortify passwords in order to avoid future thefts. Potential victims should take the following steps:
    • Change passwords on all important sites
    • Turn on two-factor authentication on all sites that allow it
    • Never re-use passwords anywhere
    • Use only good passwords; i.e., random lists of characters that alternate case and use numbers and punctuation
    Consider a website like LastPass which produces complex passwords and stores them all in the cloud, allowing you to invoke them even from a compromised system. A lengthy password is central to this type of cloud-storing site, because it strengthens the password exponentially, especially if it’s loaded with a variety of symbols.
  • Back Up Your Data. While we increasingly use cloud storage, consider a portable backup drive as well. Hackers can easily access your iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive account and destroy your data. So for optimal protection, utilize a cloud backup service that constantly backs up your files in real time, but also purchase a portable drive as another precautionary measure. Then take the drive to another location, such as your workplace, a friend or relative’s house, or a safety deposit box. This will ensure your data is safe if there is a fire or another incident that causes severe damage to your home.
  • Harden Vulnerabilities. Be sure to turn on the encryption on your computer to protect the hard drive. As a result, your data cannot be as easily compromised if your computer is stolen. Additionally, avoid online banking on a computer that you use to surf the Internet and consider purchasing a computer solely dedicated to online banking and other important financial transactions. An inexpensive laptop can keep your browsing activity and visits to social media sites entirely separate from sites that store sensitive financial information.

Contact your HUB Risk Services or Cyber Specialist for more information on how to safeguard your personal information.