Unfortunately this is not a funny post or a story, but rather a quick blog piece I wrote for one of the company’s I’m a freelance writer for – and it’s in regards to the recent Equifax Breach. If you don’t have all the info yet, and need some information on how to be proactive see below for useful tips, links, and information!
The Equifax Breach and Your Online Security.
In regards to this week’s alarming cybersecurity news, I want to talk to you about the Equifax breach, and how you can protect yourself against hackers. I know many of us are feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and vulnerable, but there are easy proactive steps you can take right away to make it more difficult for anyone to use your compromised information unlawfully, and then some Pro-tips on how to protect your information in the future.
First, if you have not already done so, please check with Equifax to confirm whether you were impacted by the breach. 44% of Americans were impacted, and that means the chances are great that either you or a loved one were affected. It’s better to know than not to know. Please click on the link below to check whether your information was likely to have been compromised:
Next, if it turns out you were likely impacted, the most proactive step you can take is to bite the bullet and freeze your credit with all 3 credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. For residents of California there is a $10 charge for each freeze, (though Equifax is not charging, last I checked). You can call, or freeze them online very easily. You may UNfreeze them at any time using a unique PIN number, which each company will provide to you when you freeze.
What does it mean to “freeze your credit?” It does not mean that you won’t have access to your credit cards or your current lines of credit. Instead, it prevents any new credit provider (Banks, Loan companies, Credit Card companies) from running a credit check, and therefore impeding a cyber-criminal from opening a new line of credit using your information.
You can access the relevant websites to freeze your credit by clicking on the company links here:
Third, thanks to a 2003 law known as FACTA, you are entitled to one free credit report a year! Take advantage of this at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action, whether you think you were breached or not – it’s important to look at your current report for discrepancies. This is a key step to proactively protect yourself.
Lastly, the other aspect, which is probably just as overwhelming if you haven’t already addressed it, is your Internet Security. You’ve heard it a million times, but chances are your passwords are not secure enough, and chances are you are using duplicate passwords or variations of the same password on multiple websites. If someone can break into Equifax, they can get into almost anything. Remember, they already hacked Yahoo, and once they get your password – even for an unimportant site (who cares if they access my Netflix account, right?) they can then utilize the information on that site to get into another and another. Then they can use that access to spend your money, steal your money, commit you to services, send communications on your behalf, and steal your identity and use it for illegal purposes.
I strongly recommend using a password management tool such as LastPass or 1password. These tools can not only save and fill your passwords for you on the websites you visit, and on your phone as well, but can generate complicated, near-impossible-to-break passwords on your behalf. Here is a link to LastPass to get you started:
Even if you think you’re not someone a thief would target, you’ve got nothing they’d be interested in, and so on, that’s just not true. Identity theft happens to the most innocuous and unsuspecting.
If you still feel vulnerable and overwhelmed, please give them a call! I’ve put a link below for contact information.