Preparing For The Big One…

Here’s the article GSWS is providing for the San Diego County Optometric Society March 2017 newsletter (The San Diego View) ‘The Tech Corner’.

PREPARING FOR THE BIG ONE
By Dave Tuckman from Golden State Web Solutions, Inc. (www.GSWS.com)

We’ve seen some large data breaches over past couple of years. One good example is the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) breach in 2014 that ultimately affected approximately 21.5 million records.
As individuals, there really isn’t anything we can do to prevent something like this from happening: The OPM already had our personal data, and were responsible for keeping it secure. This breach was their failure, not something we had control over.

Despite who’s at fault, and our lack of control to prevent a situation like this from happening; we can still better prepare (and protect) ourselves, were something like this were to take place. That’s what this article designed to assist with. Please find below some steps each of us can do to best watch for any possible bad activity associated with your private information.

  1. HAVE (AND KNOW) WHO YOUR TECHNOLOGY RESOURCE IS
    In same way it’s best to know who your mechanic is before the car breaks down, it’s the same with technology. We now have enough technology in our daily lives, that it only makes sense to have a resource that can assist when you have questions and/or find yourself in a rough spot. It doesn’t need to be an official IT services company, it can easily be a family member or friend. If you have no friends or family, I will be your friend (my contact info is below). The important thing is that you know who to contact BEFORE something happens. This step alone can save a lot of time and grief.
  1. HAVE A PLAN (WERE SOMETHING TO HAPPEN)
    Work to identify and itemize what private information you know you need to protect (i.e. credit cards, passwords, private records, etc. The can be updated anytime, so it doesn’t need to be perfect. If just needs to help identify what we know to be mindful of. Often when something like this happens, it is very emotional. Having a bit of a plan prior smoothens the whole experience quite a bit. 
  1. PAY WITH A CREDIT CARD (NOT A DEBIT CARD)
    You are better protected when using a credit card vs. a debit card to make online purchases. Debit cards will immediately withdraw the money from your account. Were something to happen, you would need to work with the bank directly, not only report the malevolent activity, but go through the steps to get the money in your account restored. This can potentially tie your money up for an extended period of time. Credit card purchases will go to your statement, where it can be reviewed prior to payment. Additionally, credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act, helping to limit liability if your information is stolen or used without authorization.
  1. CLOSELY CHECK CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS
    Your credit card and financial institution statements are a complete summary of all activity for that specific billing period. There shouldn’t be any surprises in there, and don’t dismiss any transactions just because they are a smaller amount. Often, with a compromised credit card, the initial transactions will be small (i.e. a $1 donation to cancer research). This is to confirm if the information is valid for transactions. Once those get approved, larger transactions will soon follow (see tip #1 above). Take the time to look at each transaction and confirm it is legitimate. The bad guys are hoping you won’t take the time and just pay the bill. Don’t give them what they are hoping for.
  1. GET A CREDIT CHECK EVERYONE 4-6 MONTHS
    A popular target for hackers is your credit (that is the gateway to the bigger purchases). Running regular checks will show if there is anything unusual on your report. When I once had mine checked, it showed Direct TV marked me as a delinquent account. Considering I never had an account with Direct TV that seemed odd. It was easy enough to get cleared up, but had I not had it checked, I wouldn’t have known at all.

Next month, we’ll look at what to do (and resources available) in the event your private information does get are compromised and you have some cleaning up to do. In the meantime, if you have any questions and/or would like additional information, you can reach Dave directly at (619-905-4468) or email dave@GSWS.com.