Breaking news: Marriott properties was just hacked, and they are reporting a data breach of almost 500 million guests. This type of report is becoming too common. However, when I train professionals on mobile technology, social media and cyber security, many of them still follow the same, old practices. This data breach was not the first of it’s type, and it will not be the last.

Target, Home Depot, Equifax and Yahoo are the more common hacks and security lapses we’ve heard about. During the holiday season consumers are even more susceptible to having their credit card information stolen. We can’t stop all of the hacks, but there are steps we can take to make it more difficult for hackers. Here is the list…again:

  • Password Manager – LastPass, 1Password and Keeper Security generate random passwords for social media, banking and online shopping. A new survey reveals that 81% of Americans reuse the same password for several sites. Those passwords are commonly: password, 123456, QWERTY, admin and Star Wars. The data on these sites is encrypted, and it is more secure than writing those passwords on a piece of paper taped to the back of your iPhone (true story).
  • Regular Updates – No one likes the IT Director’s regular message of “It’s time to change your password.” In a networked work environment, this practices protects you and your co-workers. Your personal passwords should be changed annually, as well. Put an alert of your calendar to change passwords for credit cards, banking, school and all of your computers.
  • Free WiFi – There is no such thing as free. Starbucks and other coffee shops offer patrons free and open wifi while they shop or dine. This is a haven for data breaches. Savvy hackers set up shop in malls, coffee shops, grocery stores and hotels to watch text messages, emails and financial transactions being processed. Convenience does NOT equal security. Use a personal hotspot or VPN for all of your computer activity away from home or work.

Employees Can Prevent Data Breaches

  • Software Updates – Mobile device software updates contain fixes for security. Update your iPhone, iPad and Android devices to protect yourself and your data. These updates don’t take long, but devices occasionally need to be plugged in and located in a secured wifi area. Laptop and desktop computer operating systems need to be updated, as well. For an extra layer of security and protection, use up to date anti-virus software like Norton Utilities or McAfee.
  • Email Management – Don’t open or respond to every email. Computer viruses spread when people receive emails with a link from friends and family that look legitimate. Don’t open the email from your boss that says “I LOVE YOU.” She doesn’t, and she wouldn’t send that message in an email. Immediately report suspicious emails to your technology team.

Consumers cannot control how companies like Target, Marriott and Home Depot handle a data breach, but we can protect our selves with a few simple tools. Password protection and software updates can go a long way to prevent certain hacks and phishing. If your company needs training on cyber security practices, schedule a 15-minute consultation. We’d love to help!

Scientifically Speaking, of course…