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Protecting Your Cyber Identity

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Recently we’ve all seen familiar companies and websites fall victim to various cyber attacks which compromise the security of personal consumer data. Some attacks are pranks which do little to no serious damage; but some actually cause frustrating disruptions in service or pose a serious threat to consumer privacy.  

Earlier this year, Walgreens notified customers that a list of customers' e-mail addresses had been breached and spam may have been sent out directing customers to enter personal data into outside Web sites. The company said no other personal information was at risk. 

In the past few weeks, the U.S. Senate, the International Monetary Fund, defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp., banking concern Citigroup Inc., technology giant Google Inc. and consumer electronics group Sony Corp. are among those who have disclosed hacker attacks of various kinds. 

Attacks via networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are popular because they can make spam look as though it was sent by friends, but the effect is similar when spam or data-seeking e-mail seems to come from a trusted merchant. 

These attacks serve as a continual reminder that we as individuals must be vigilant in guarding our own cyber identity. As a reminder, here are a few tips to keep in mind:   

  • A reputable company or website will NEVER ask you for your password or other personal information in an email. If YOU did not initiate the contact, NEVER, EVER give or enter any of your personal information. 
  •  If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. $1,000 shopping cards, 5 day, 4 night vacation getaways, and Government refunds DO NOT magically appear in your email. So don’t respond. 
  • Change your password often; don’t use the same password for all the sites you visit. 
  • Be leery of clicking on strange looking links to videos, e-cards, etc, even if they appear to come from someone you know. Many of these are laced with viruses. 
  • Make a habit of deleting your browser history, especially after viewing or entering sensitive financial data. 

While there’s no way to stop unscrupulous people from trying to steal personal information, arming yourself with knowledge is the best weapon in the fight against cyber identity theft. For more information on ways to protect your online identity, visit the CITS website.