The last two years have been two of the biggest in terms of “big name” hacks.  The Target credit card scandal and the Sony Pictures scandal have been two of the biggest headlines of the past couple of years.  Thousands upon thousands of people had their information stolen and compromised.  I was one of those people who had a credit card number stolen in the Target breach, but it wasn’t until months later that a criminal used my card number.  Thankfully AMEX is very good about fraud protection and we were able to stop the card before too much damage had been done.  I wasn’t liable (thankfully) for the almost $700 worth of charges that the criminal had racked up in about 30 minutes.

The latest hack on a government network is also very dire looking.  The Office Of Personnel Management (OPM) has said that over 22 million records have been stolen, and that “Everyone who works or has worked for the federal government as an employee or contractor should take immediate action to protect themselves.”

What was stolen?  Here’s the list, also from that Trend Micro blog post:

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Residency and educational history
  • Employment history
  • Information about immediate family, other personal and business acquaintances
  • Health, criminal and financial history
  • Usernames and passwords applicants used to complete background investigation forms

That’s a lot of information, and quite enough for hackers to set up accounts under people’s names and exploit the heck out of them.  It’s an incredibly damaging breach and 22 million people is a LOT.

Thankfully credit card issuers are employing chip technology, but how does that prevent someone from opening up a card account under their name in the first place?

All in all it’s a dire situation, and I encourage everyone, no matter if your information was compromised, to start up some sort of identity theft insurance.

Also recommended is protecting your own personal computer.  Hackers are getting more and more sophisticated and have been able to make off with a lot of personal information through spyware and malware.

Did you know that keysniffers are one of the biggest culprits in malware today, and that your antivirus software may not detect them?  That’s why I have personally installed Spyhunter 4 and run it on an auto scan every week in order to ensure that my PC is free of unwanted malware.  You can download it here from my favorite website, We Hate Malware.

Overall, it’s very important to keep an eye on your personal accounts.  Check your credit card statements weekly, and install phone apps so that you can receive fraud threat alerts.  The reason we were able to stop the thief with my credit card information so quickly was that a fraud alert popped up on my phone and I was able to call AMEX and have them cancel the account.  It probably also helped my case when it came time to have AMEX cover those charges.

You could also go off the grid entirely, but that seems almost impossible to do these days.  So just stay on top of the news and ensure that you’re careful about your data.