Over the last few years, there have been a few major data and security breaches. Everyone remembers when Target was hit in December of 2013, exposing the credit card information and contact details of more than 70 million people.
Hackers stole from Target’s website as well as through their online system, highlighting the risks that people face when entering their credit card information into a website’s checkout window. This recently ended in a final settlement of more than $18.5 million paid out to people in 47 states.
There are also countless personal attacks, some major and others minor. Many internet users have either been hacked or know someone who has been hacked on social media. You’ve probably received a message from your friend with a spammy link inside, planted by a hacker trying to spread malware.
Research shows that more than 4.2 billion records, both containing financial information and personal details, were breached in 2016. Unfortunately, internet users aren’t nearly as safe as they think. It’s important for users to recognize the threats they face anytime they log in to an internet account or punch in their credit card information.
Businesses Try to Contain Security Breaches
Businesses have a right and responsibility to ensure that your personal information is kept safe, but this is something that we take for granted. Many businesses go to great lengths to protect your precious information from breaches. Others fail to provide more than the basic measures of security, which put your personal information at risk.
Research shows that 43 percent of cyber attacks target small businesses, and only 14 percent of small businesses believe their security can handle these attacks. Many don’t realize the greatness of their risk, and most don’t understand how to manage data security in the cloud. They want to keep their customers safe, but they don’t know how.
Additionally, threats to organizations change frequently. The biggest threat five years ago is much different from the biggest threat today, and companies must develop a constantly evolving system to mitigate risk.
Cyber security should be a bigger priority for businesses who wish to remain ethical and maintain transparency and trust with consumers. Awareness regarding cyber security threats is growing, but businesses must be willing and able to resolve potential issues before they occur.
Steps Consumers Can Take
Although businesses are working to become more self-reliant with cyber security threats, you can’t trust that every website will keep your information safe. There are certain things that all consumers should do to protect themselves from security breaches.
- Enter your credit card information warily. Don’t trust that every website will protect your credit card information, especially if it’s a small business. If possible, use a trusted third-party payment system like PayPal, which is more likely to be secure than a small business website.
- Change your passwords regularly. Hackers gain access to social media, retail accounts, and more through weak passwords. Research shows that 68 percent of people use passwords that are 5+ years old and that 73 percent of accounts are guarded by duplicated passwords. This makes it much easier for a hacker to gain access to your information. It’s vital that you vary your passwords and change them regularly.
- Always watch your credit card statements. Review all transactions at least once per week. You can usually stop the fraudulent activity and get your money back if you catch the theft and alert your credit card company in a timely manner.
- Sign up for activity alerts through your bank. This will alert you in real-time when your credit card information is being used in a strange place. If something happens, you can immediately deny the transaction and protect your account.
- Consider subscribing to identity protection. Identity theft is more common than people realize, and it goes beyond credit card fraud. Most forms of identity theft are used to gain government documents or benefits. There are more than 15 million victims of identity theft each year, and subscribing to monitoring services like Experian can protect you from all sorts of threats that cost consumers more than $16 million a year.
- Turn on two-factor authentication. It can be annoying to go through two steps to log into an account, but it ensures a higher level of safety of any account. You can turn on two-factor authentication in the settings tab of most of your accounts.
- Use highly rated anti-virus and anti-malware software. If you use a free version, make sure it’s up-to-date and offers total protection. If you do click on a spammy link, this software can protect your computer.
Online security should never be taken lightly. By raising your awareness and coming to grips with the realities of cyber security threats, you can mitigate many threats on your own. Be wary when interacting online, and take steps to protect yourself as soon as possible.