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Identity Theft

by Patrick Rardin in News, Technology

There are a lot of questions surrounding this “Hot” topic of the day and it is a topic of serious concern. I am often asked “Is this a serious threat?” to which I always answer with a resounding YES!

First of all what exactly is Identity Theft? The clearest definitions circulating are quite simply; Identity Theft is an illegal use of third parties personal information (ex. Social Security Number) to obtain financial gain.

Please note that if you are in business, Identity Theft, is not the only risk. Your business computers may contain a lot of sensitive, private, client and business related information. This information may be as easily compromised as your Identity and should be treated with equal care and sensitivity. Much of the information and suggestions outlined below can help protect this information. We encourage you to contact us to help assess and develop effective measures to minimize the compromise of sensitive business related data.

The easiest and most basic means of initiating Identity Theft is by obtaining an individual’s wallet. Our physical wallets, today, are probably the easiest and identity rich means of completing this theft. From the wallet, we can move on to our mail (Snail Mail – U S Postal Service), where just sitting in your mailbox can be one little envelope, easily lifted, – many credit card companies mail pre-filled credit card applications and an Identity Thief can remove this mail from your mailbox, finish filling it out, diverting the resulting card to a different address, thereby establishing your identity at a new location. A third, low-tech means, would be by collecting information from your trash. You would probably be surprised at how much information is contained in one trash bag from the average household.

Higher Tech means of obtaining this same information can be done via Trojan Horse Viruses on computers. Phishing emails are another means of obtaining personal information. Phishing Emails are those which appear to be from legitimate Financial Institutions or Government Agencies, alleging a need for detailed personal information (Bank Acct, Drivers Lic., etc.). These, in many cases, well designed emails attempt to scare you, the recipient, into thinking your account will be closed or compromised. Another technical means of obtaining data is from old computers left on the curb for “Bulk” trash pickup, their internal hard drives contain more personally identifiable information than you can imagine (even though you “thought” you deleted everything).

Passwords are just that, key words that allow someone to pass into your account. Over the years, in utter frustration, I am sure, most folks simplify their passwords and use the same one over and over again. Your birthday, your dog’s name, and your home address are the most common passwords and can be easily hacked, especially if someone knows you. The best passwords are complex and randomly generated. A password of “fluffy1” can be hacked in a matter of seconds whereas a password like this “Xmgqa2&S5A?nZPF4” would take too long and a hacker would more than likely pass to an easier target. Passwords are the key barrier to entry of unauthorized parties, the more difficult the password the harder it is for 3rd parties to access your bank accounts, email, credit cards, computers, etc.

Access to your computers should be restricted to those you trust. Many wireless networking devices come ready to setup right out of the box and apparently easy setup at that. Unfortunately many of these wireless devices are also leaking out your precious information to anyone with a wireless connection. They could be two doors down, or a block away, they could also be in a car parked right on your street. Give us a call and arrange for a review of your network, both wired and wireless, to make sure you are protected from prying eyes.

Co-Workers, Friends, and Family, alas, account for a higher number of identity thefts than you can believe. We want to think we can trust co-workers, friends, and family with almost anything and certainly in many cases we can, however, it is important to remember that these are also the people that know you best. They know where you keep things; they know many of your “passwords” (if they are passwords of your dogs name, birthday, address, etc.). Sometimes close co-workers, friends, and family members have falling outs or they themselves fall on hard times and resort to criminal activity. This is another reason to not divulge or disclose more information than needed to co-workers, friends, and family. Just like in our top secret security bureaus remember only give out this sensitive data on a “Need to know” basis. All too often the people around us do Not Need To Know.

Since Identity Theft is in the headlines a lot lately we wanted to provide you with information and tips regarding this important issue. There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and your business. We strongly encourage you to contact us for a complete evaluation of your identity theft risk and/or sensitive corporate data theft risk. Listed below are a number of pro-active steps you can take to minimize your risk:

First and foremost make sure you have Identity Theft Insurance coverage
This can be nominally priced extended add-on coverage to your existing homeowners insurance. We support a number of excellent Insurance Agencies and can gladly refer you to one.

Streamline your Wallet (do you need your Social Security Card in there?)
Memorize your Social Security number, you probably already have and remove unnecessary bank cards, credit cards and pieces of paper with the pin codes printed on them.

Streamline your physical junk mail (what comes into your mailbox) by opting out of junk mail.|
The Direct Marketing Association’s website offers a number of ways to get your physical junk mail reduced and also your junk email. Their website is http://www.dmachoice.org.

Buy a good “Cross-Cut Shredder” for your home and office.
I say cross cut because that type of shredder literally tears paper into tiny pieces rather than the alternate basic shredder which just shreds into strips which can easily be sifted through and re-constructed. Cross cut shredders are not much more expensive and are considerably more effective in rendering papers unidentifiable.

Change your passwords to more complex ones. We can point you in the direction of simple programs that assist in creating more complex, random passwords, as well as safeguarding all your passwords in one password protected password vault.

Good, reliable and current Antivirus Solution.
New viruses are released by the hundreds, daily! So an old anti-virus program provides practically no protection against current threats. Contact us and we can point you in the right direction for a simple and current Antivirus solution. Many of the major brands, readily recognized, are not as effective as the solutions we offer which are competitively priced.

Hardware Firewall to your Internet Access.
The pioneers of the internet did have some form of security in mind when the networking technology was initially invented. Built into networking is a simple means of preventing people from accessing your personal computers from very public Cable and Phone Company Internet solutions. A simple device, called a “Router” can add a physical layer of protection to your network. You can call us for a recommendation, installation and configuration of just such a device. Wireless routers work too, but are they secured?

Wireless Internet Access
Is My Wireless Internet Secure? Anyone who has had their wireless setup by us, Eagle Feather Enterprises, need not worry; we always implement the most practical security solution when we setup your wireless device. If you purchased and installed a wireless device on your own there is a good chance it is not secure. By default these devices do not come with security enabled.

Verify and do not open or respond to Phishing emails.
Call your financial institution to verify before submitting any information online. Rarely, if ever, do Financial Institutions or Government Agencies communicate via email regarding key personal information so when in doubt (I know some of these emails look really authentic, but they are not) call the party in question to clarify the email request.

Online Shopping and security
The Internet provides so many conveniences which include allowing you to shop from the comfort of your home whenever you want. The key to making your online purchases as safe as possible is to make sure when shopping you are shopping securely. An easy way for you to notice this is as follows: Whenever you are browsing the Internet certainly you have noticed the website addresses are always preceded by http:// (for example https://www.eaglefeather.net). It is key that during the checkout process (not necessarily the entire browsing time but YES during checkout) that that “http” portion of the address changes to “https”, notice the “S” now on the end which stands for secure and denotes a secure technology transition for your checkout process.

Have your hard drive removed and destroyed before disposing of your old computer.
We offer a hard drive destruction service. This service includes our retrieval of your hard drive from a computer you are disposing of (the hard drive is a tiny little box inside the computer that is water proof virtually indestructible, it is what is used in flight data recorders), registration of the hard drive serial number and complete pulverization of the drive rendering it to a handful of metallic scrap pieces, accompanied by a certificate of destruction. This is the only means the Department of Justice recognizes as data destruction.

Identity Theft can be scary and can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable. Take the necessary steps now to safeguard and protect your well established and credible identity. Let us help you and answer any questions you might have regarding this.

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