Data breaches seem to be happening more and more often, with data thieves targeting both small companies and global giants. Data thieves are always on the lookout—and you should be too. Here's what you need to know about protecting yourself from data breaches.
How hacks can happen
Technology seems to offer the promise of keeping us safer—so what can lead to hacks? It's a complicated issue, including:
- Multiple entry points. People and companies access data from multiple places, including desktop computers, phones and tablets. These are all potential entry points for hackers, making it more complicated to protect against a data breach.
- High volume of malicious activity. In 2019, there were nearly 350,000 pieces of malicious software identified each day and over seven billion attacks for the year, making it difficult to guard against every new threat.
How to prevent a data breach
Whether or not there have been reports of a data breach, you should always do everything you can to keep your information secure. Here are some tips to consider:
- Create complex passwords. Use different ones for each account, and change your passwords if a company you've recently interacted with gets hacked.
- Use multi-factor authentication when available. This allows access only after two or more pieces of evidence are presented—usually a password and a code that is sent to the user by phone, text or email during login.
- Shop with a credit card. You may have less liability for fraudulent credit card charges , but you may be responsible for more than $500 in charges if your debit account is hacked .
- Watch for fraud. If you receive a notice about the data breach, call the company to confirm that it's legitimate, using a number you know to be valid rather than a number that may be listed on the notice.
- Guard against identity theft. Globally, 65% of data breaches result in identity theft, making it the most common outcome. If you become an identity theft victim, contact each credit card company to set up fraud alerts and freeze your accounts. Then get in touch with your local Social Security office for next steps.
- Set up account alerts. You may be able to receive notifications of suspicious purchases or those that exceed a certain dollar amount. This may give you a heads-up that you've been hacked.