Protect Yourself and Your Information Against Intruders

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation, estimated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as being a $50 billion a year industry.

January 11, 2010
Sponsored by ProtectMyID.com

Approximately 10 million Americans were victims of some sort of identity fraud in 2008. This is a 22 percent increase from 2007.

With more and more people using the Internet to see movie schedules, shop online, listen to music, watch television, do homework, pay bills, as well as conduct financial business transactions, identity fraud continues to grow. For many of us, e-mail has not only taken the place of postal mail, but also replaces some telephone calls. Currently, most Internet users (over 60%) have direct connections to the Internet through cable modem, T-1 or digital subscriber line (DSL) connections. This means they are connected to the Internet 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year. For the most part, these types of connections are wonderful, as the computer is always “on.” These fast connections offer convenience and speed for everyday use.

However, there are several drawbacks to being continuously connected to the Internet. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are neglecting to tell you just how vulnerable you might be to being hacked or otherwise attacked while connected to the Internet. This hook-up allows a greater risk of exposure of your personal information. Continuous connections can also be exploited by “crackers” to use your computer as a remotely controlled ghost server (for example: storage of data that is not yours, sending out spam e-mails, forwarding viruses or promoting attacks on other computers).

Leaving your computer connected to the Internet without firewall protection (either by software or hardware) is like leaving your house unlocked all the time. When you are connected to the Internet, you literally have access to the world. What some people forget is that this is not a one-way connection. If you can connect to the outside world, then anyone on the Internet with the right program can connect to your computer as well. Not only that, but they can plant a program into your computer (a Trojan, key-stroke logger or virus) so that they can access it not only at that very moment, but in the future as well.

Here are a few ways to keep you protected online:

  • Install a firewall to protect your information.
  • Install reputable anti-spam and anti-virus software and keep it updated.
  • Be cautious of dealing with pop-ups.
  • Beware of hidden-file extensions.
  • Don't be lulled into a false sense of security just because you run anti-virus programs.
  • Backup your system.
  • Turn off your computer when not in use.
  • Use common sense.

And let’s not forget about mobile devices. They are used by millions of people for texting, exchanging e-mails, storing contact information, and for surfing the Internet. With this ever-growing aggressiveness towards mobility, the BlackBerry (or other Smart Phones) has become the keyword for present day communication. Society has become so addicted to these handheld devices, it’s no wonder they’ve picked up the nickname, “CrackBerry.”

With that said, it’s important to remember that these devices are a mine of personal information. The increased use of your mobile device gives hackers and scammers, a new ways to steal your data and personal information. Therefore, taking the same security measures as you would on your personal computer (PC) is just as important for your mobile device.

Here are some tips you can do to make your BlackBerry safer from identity theft:

  • Enable Password Protect — As part of enhancing security of your mobile device, you should have a password protection. 
  • Encrypt Data — On your BlackBerry:

    - Follow the menu through Options

    - Security Options

    - General Settings

    - In the item that says Content Protection, set the value as enabled and select the strength to strong, stronger or strongest.
  • Clearing Memory — This option lets you delete sensitive data such as unencrypted e-mail messages and user ID/password combinations.

    - Follow the menu through Options

    - Security Options

    - Memory Cleaning

  • Secure Passwords With the Password Keeper Utility — This is an important tip. Never save user ID and passwords in your BlackBerry. However, if you wish to save your user ID and passwords, you should use the Password Keeper Utility.

At the very least, remember these key things to help protect your identity:

  • Review your credit report at least quarterly;
  • Keep your Social Security number protected and private; and
  • Consider investing in an identity-theft protection product such as ProtectMyID.com.