Feb/Mar 2015

Cyber breaches continually dominate the headlines with no end in sight. Target retail stores started the wave during peak holiday shopping in the end of the 2013. Consumers were fed a steady stream of breaking details as the puzzle pieces fell into place, painting a picture of the breach, its perpetrators and victims. This enormous retail hack seems to have set a pattern followed by a string of unprecedented retail hacks including Home Depot, PF Chang’s, Neiman Marcus and more; forcing all U.S. consumers to question the safety and confidence they normally place in their credit cards.

Edward Snowden leaks continued to surface as repeated hacks against the U.S. government unfolded, making Americans wonder if the Government can’t protect its advanced networks, how can they protect everyday citizens on the Internet? The largest banking institution, JP Morgan was the next victim of an attack leading many to question all of our banks’ stability and security? Many were shocked as celebrity iCloud accounts were hacked with nude photo leaks of celebrities all over the Internet.

The Sony hack was the largest corporate breach on U.S. soil and ignited a cyberwar between the U.S. government and North Korea. The barrage of releases from the hackers enraged celebrities, and exposed Sony executives’ controversial emails. The culmination of these hacks, have led the collective consumers’ eyes to glaze over at the mention of the next big breach.

Apathetic to the growing list of victims of cyberattacks, many Americans are feeling ‘data breach fatigue’ setting in. This is exactly what cyber hackers have been waiting for. Now they can inflict more damage and exploit consumers’ complacency. Now is the time to be proactive and strengthen your defenses. So before you start getting sleepy and say ‘here we go again’…. WAKE UP! The problem will not go away until you actually follow through and implement these best practices now:

  1. Create strong unique passwords for each account using a mix of 15 characters (Uppercase & Lowercase)/numbers/symbols. Your password should not contain any common words found in a dictionary. Never use the same password on multiple websites. Be diligent in changing your passwords every month and don’t write them on sticky notes where roving eyes might take note.
  2. Check your credit card statements regularly for suspicious activity and monitor the details on your bank statement. This is easier if you minimize the number of credit cards you have down to a few key cards.
  3. Most basic information used in identity theft is easily obtained on the Internet. Do not reveal too many details on social networks (i.e. birthday, age, school attended). Cyber hackers are always searching for both private and public social networks to gather clues so that they can steal your ID.

With the growing list of casualties it is inevitable that we will all start to experience data breach fatigue. It is imperative that we stay alert to the onslaught of cyber security threats so we can keep safe.


Scott Schober is a cyber security expert and the president/CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems. He can be reached at scott@bvsystems.com

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