Expert weighs in on cyber security threats to protect you - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Expert weighs in on cyber security threats to protect you

Call your bank and tell them any transactions on your account must be confirmed over the phone. (Source: WECT) Call your bank and tell them any transactions on your account must be confirmed over the phone. (Source: WECT)

It appears that with every click of the mouse, there's another cyber security breach; the latest include Target, Home Depot, Gmail, and Jimmy Johns.

Sometimes you can't avoid being targeted, but more often than not, there are preventative measures you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to a seemingly invisible threat.

Cyber security expert and IT security officer at UNCW Zachery Mitcham said that with about 300 million or so Americans, "a cyber criminal has about 300 million banks that he can access using a unique identifier such as your social security number."

Mitcham provided some valuable tools you can arm yourself with to better prepare against a cyber security breach.

Your Wallet 

  • Contact your the IRS and ask them not to approve anything requiring your social security number without first confirming or verifying a pin. 
    • "The IRS will oblige you to do that, but you have to first contact them and request it," Mitcham said.
  • Call your bank and tell them any transactions on your account must be confirmed over the phone.
  • Contact all your credit bureaus and freeze your credit.
    • "Someone with your social security number or any other kind of identifier can create new credit in your name," Mitcham said. "If it's frozen, the [credit bureau] is going to contact you before that happens.
  • Check your credit reports regularly for unusual activity.
    • "If you don't say something, they'll assume you did it," Mitcham said.

Your computer/ cell phone

  • Google your social security number to see if any agencies have access to it
    • "If you see a hit, you'll want to contact those agencies and let them know that your personal information has been made available and you want it removed, in compliance with the North Carolina Identity Protection Act," Mitcham said. "You can always use the law to help you in that regard."
  • Avoid Bluetooth if not in use
    • "By default, a lot of times when you update your software for security updates, it will automatically turn on services like Bluetooth," Mitcham said. "Bluetooth is able to communicate with outside people. It's very violating to have someone talk to your device or computer without you knowing."
  • Add a security plug-in  to your browser
    • "The Web of Trust plug- in will stop and ask you if you are sure you want to go to a site that may have reputation issues," Mitcham said. "It'll put a big red circle on it."
  • Change your password  at least bi-monthly
  • Use a "pass-phrase" instead of a complicated password.
    • "Don't get caught up in the uppercase, lowercase, and special characters," Mitcham said. "Use a ‘pass-phrase' that's very familiar to use such as ‘I love to eat Domino's pizza daily.'"
  • Don't use the same password for all your accounts.
    • "There is only a limited number of banks around and [criminals] have the patience to go in and use those combinations on every agency until they get a hit," Mitcham said.
  • Use layers of security such as adding a security question to coincide with your password.
  • Avoid Bit Torrent websites that download movies or music illegally
    • "More than likely, they will download a bit torrent on your computer that will serve as a key logger to log in your information to various locations," Mitcham said.

Social media accounts

  • Use a "need to know" mindset with putting information on social media accounts.
  • Try to only use personal  information that is already public record.
  • Turn metadata off
    • "When you're taking pictures for social media, understand there's a thing called metadata that's able to capture the time, date and location," Mitcham explained.
  • Be wary of free online services
    • "When you're using free information like Gmail, you're not the customer. You're the product, " Mitcham said. "They're going to solicit things from you by posting your preferences on sites that you visit. They're going to grab your behavior and give it to the people who are paying for it. Sometimes some of the people who are paying for it are bad people."
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