Keeping your data secure is probably one of the most important things in today's digital world, and might be something you think about the least — until your password is compromised. So, what if it happens? Well, the first thing to do when your password is stolen is to change it immediately. And additionally, while it's a huge pain, you should have different passwords for each account so when something like this happens you don't have to change them all.
If this sounds like a lot of work, you can use a password manager like Last Pass to store all of your passwords, but this can also open you up to more risk, according to CNBC, because if the password manager is breached, all of your passwords could be stolen.
I have been a victim of identity theft. Aside from making you feel vulnerable, and pissed off, it's a huge headache to figure out exactly how far the thieves have gone, clean up your credit report, sign up for federal credit monitoring, and convince credit card companies that, no, you did not buy $237 worth of gas in Nebraska.
The best way to protect yourself is to be smart up front, and if your password is stolen, take action immediately.
Change Your Password ASAP
One easy way to stay on top of your cyber security is to sign up for text alerts for all of your accounts. If something suspicious is going on, you'll receive a text notifying you, and then you can check right away to see if your account has been breached. If you actually were the one who uncharacteristically bought front row tickets to Justin Bieber, then you don't have to do anything.
If you weren't, change your password, then call the bank, or credit card company. You want to change your password first to stop the hackers from buying any other weird stuff with your account, like 426 black lights that also double as bluetooth speakers. CNBC also advises checking your credit report and requesting a security freeze so none of this gets reported, and ends up as a negative mark on your credit history.
When my identity was stolen, I found out too late. I was denied credit, which seemed odd to me and prompted me to request my credit report where I found delinquent accounts opened, and not paid, by the thief. Trying to deal with this after it's already made it onto your credit report is time consuming, and it takes a bit of time to remove the negative reports. You'll also want to check all of your financial statements just to make sure that more than one password wasn't compromised, and those black lights aren't showing up as purchases on any of your bills.
Don't Let Hackers Inside Your Head
While this sounds like a given, a new study reports that passwords can be stolen through brainwaves. Why, yes, we are actually living in an episode of Black Mirror. If you're into virtual reality, and you wear one of those EEG headsets that effectively reads your brainwaves to perform functions like playing a video game, your passwords could be stolen right from your brain, according to an article by Colm Gorey on Silicon Republic.
A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham studied a new type of cyberattack called PEEP "that secretly extracts private information, in particular users’ private input such as PINs and passwords, from event-related potentials measured by brain computer interfaces."
Basically, if you enter passwords into your computer, tablet, or phone while wearing your EEG headset, hackers may be able to hack into your brainwaves and extract the data. Quick, someone call Mulder and Scully. While new technology provides many benefits, it also opens you up to more risks, So, just to be safe, don't enter any passwords while wearing an EEG headset.
A few other ways to stay safe in the digital world include being aware of email phishing scams that ask you to log into you account, or reset a password. In general, most places will not contact you via email if you need to change your password. And, the new scams are so slick it can be hard to tell what's a fake website versus what's real. Anything asking for your password, or financial data, is likely not legit. You can also set up a VPN to ensure you're always logging on to a secure WiFi networks, which reduces the chances of your data and passwords being compromised.
And, last but not least, make your passwords hard to guess. If you are a huge Gilmore Girls fan, and everyone knows this (like you're tweeting about it all of the time) don't make your password something like Luke&Lorelai87. Hackers can monitor your social accounts to glean your interests (not to mention birthday, hometown, etc.) and use those detes to guess your passwords. Let's not make it any easier for them.