Computer hackers are people who break into internet-connected devices like computers, tablets, and smartphones, usually with the intent to steal, change or delete information. They do this by installing malware (software used for malicious purposes) you might not even know is there. These thieves might get access to your most precious data, including your financial information, before you know your device has been breached.
1. Install antivirus and anti-spy software
Antivirus and anti-spyware software play a major role in protecting your system by detecting real-time threats to ensure your data is safe. Some advanced antivirus programs provide automatic updates, further protecting your machine from the new viruses that emerge every day. After you install an antivirus program, do not forget to use the automatic updates. Run or schedule regular virus scans to keep your computer virus-free. Viruses may have easy-to-spot effects – for example, they might slow your computer or delete key files – or they may be less conspicuous. Do not allow software to be loaded on your computer if you are not completely familiar with it. If you share your PC with anyone, including your children, make sure they know the rules for downloading and installing software.
2. Create secure passwords
To create a password that is more difficult to guess, use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters i.e. 4func*llC3po, I)9vemyd1g). Certain passwords are easier to compromise, so try to avoid common pitfalls by creating secure passwords:
- Don’t base your password on personal information that can be connected to you—such as the name of your pet, your birthday, or your company name.
- Don’t use a word found in the dictionary as your password.
- Avoid substituting numbers for letters, for example: using a zero for the letter “o” or a one for the letter “i.” These substitutions are well known and predictable.
- Don’t use your UserID as your password.
- Don’t use simple number sequences like “12345” or a series of duplicate numbers like “11111.”
- Change your password frequently, and do not “reuse” a password you’ve used somewhere else. If you have too many passwords to remember, consider using a password manager, such as Dashlane, Sticky Password, LastPass or Password Boss.
3. Know the threats
It is important to be aware of possible risks to your computer and the information on or passing through it. We have a designated team responsible for reviewing potential threats to clients’ assets and information. Your awareness, combined with our vigilance, can help to decrease the risk to your accounts and information. Familiarize yourself with the threats posed by:
Identity theft — using a person’s personal or financial data to commit fraud — is one of the most rapidly growing global crimes. The targets of this crime are personal information, financial information, and access to online accounts. The personal information often targeted includes:
- Name, address, and date of birth
- Social Security number
- Driver’s license number
The financial information often sought is:
- UserIDs and passwords
- Account numbers and ABA numbers
- Credit card numbers
- ATM / Debit cards
Phishing is when someone attempts to steal personal or financial information. It usually starts with an email asking for sensitive information, such as your UserID or user name, your password, or your account information.
Please note: We will never ask you for your account number, UserID, PIN, password or any other personal information in an email. (In rare cases, however, we might need to ask you for the last four digits of your account number for identification purposes.)
As its name suggests, spyware is software that is used to “spy” on your computer. It poses two problems: invasion of privacy and can adversely affect your computer’s performance.
Viruses, worms, and Trojans
Viruses, worms and Trojans are programs that can become embedded on your hard drive. They can allow remote access to your computer, send spam, and be used to spy on you, log your keystrokes, aid phishers, erase data, and even wipe out your hard drive.
4. Limit what you share on Social Media
Set all of your profiles to Private, so your information is shared only with your friends and not open to everyone. Don’t share too much personal information online, like your location, birthdays, vacation details, and the names of places you frequent, including schools. Hackers love this info sharing, and considering how sites like Facebook are now admitting that employees and vendors had access to these profiles, it is even more important to not include as much personal information on social media profiles.
In addition, avoid answering quizzes, tests, posts, etc. you see on social media. These are often disguised as fun, innocent ways to determine “which celebrity you look most like”, or, “what is your royal name?”. These “quizzes” are actually, most often information gathering tools used by bad actors. Answers provided to questions like, “what is the name of the street you grew up on?”, “what is your favorite food?”, or “what was the name of your first dog?” can be combined with your profile photo, date of birth, and where you live, then sold on the dark web to hackers.
5. Do not access personal or financial data with public Wi-Fi
Do not check bank accounts or make purchases with a credit card while using public Wi-Fi. Nearly every coffee shop, library, airport, hotel and restaurant offer access to the internet.
6. Set up Multifactor Authentication
Perhaps the most basic thing that can be done to protect private data is to ensure that you set up multifactor authentication. Most email providers and banks will allow you to turn it on somewhere in settings.
7. Ignore spam
Beware of email messages from unknown parties, and never click on links or open attachments that accompany them. Spam filters have gotten good at catching the most conspicuous spam, but phishing emails that mimic your friends, associates and trusted businesses have become more prevalent.
8. Back up your computer
Backing up your information is critical in case hackers do succeed in getting through and breaching your computer.
9. Shut it down
If you are not using your computer switch off your machine overnight or during long intervals. Your computer is a more available target for hackers when it is always on.
What To Do When You Have Been Hacked
1. Notify all institutions where you have financial accounts
We can help notify TradePMR so your account numbers can be changed and your account can be placed under partial restriction to limit any money movement.
2. Update your system and delete any malware
If you do not have security software, get it. Only install software from reputable, well-known companies. Then, run it to scan your computer for viruses and spyware. Delete any suspicious software and restart your computer. Set your security software, internet browser and operating system (like Windows or MacOS) to update automatically.
3. Change your passwords
If you cannot run a virus scan immediately, we recommend you change your passwords. You should also change your passwords again after malware is removed from the computer to be completely certain that the hackers no longer have access to your information. All passwords should be changed for all software, apps, etc. This would include email, social networking sites, financial sites, etc.
4. Place a fraud alert
Place a fraud alert with the credit agencies Experian, TransUnion or Equifax – this is especially useful in situation where the client’s personal information such as SSN is compromised. Consider using a theft protection service such as LifeLock or Identity Guard.
5. Check your account settings
Once you are back into your computer, make sure your signature (at the end of emails) do not contain unfamiliar links, and messages are not being forwarded to someone else’s address. On your social networking service, look for changes to the account since you last logged in – beware of friend requests from unfamiliar people.
6. Resources and Reporting
Below is further information on identity theft and reporting identity theft.
- FTC Research: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft; Reporting: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0277-create-identity-theft-report; Reporting wizard: https://ftccomplaintassistant.gov
- IRS Research: https://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection
- Reporting Form 14039: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf
- Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) Research: https://www.ic3.gov/faq/default.aspx; Reporting: https://www.ic3.gov/complaint/splash.aspx