How to Protect Yourself from Getting Hacked

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Cybersecurity expert Gregory D. Evans says that you don’t have to fall victim to a hacker. Here are some smart, simple ways to defend yourself.

Every six seconds, a personal computer is hacked. Often, African Americans do not think about computer security in the same manner they think about personal protection, including buying Mace, a gun or a burglar alarm. 

In fact, 80% of computer hacking boil down to research. Statistics showthat for seven out of 10 people who get hacked, it’s because they indirectly gave the hacker their password. With computer hacking incidents on the rise, it’s important to educate yourself so that you don’t fall victim. Below are 10 ways to protect yourself from a cyber security attack:

1. Keep your personal information private. On social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter, for example, don’t post the names of your family since these same names may act as your answers to your secret questions or even as passwords to your accounts. Also, don’t post what grammar, middle school or high school you attended, where you work or where you were born. These are often answers to secret questions if you ever forget your password and have to reset it.

2. Have several email accounts. Use different email addresses for your social media, banking, financial services, credit card, shopping and children’s accounts.

3. Shop smarter online. As a rule of thumb, buy prepaid or gift cards to shop online. If your account is hacked, the thieves will not have access to your real credit card information.

4. Protect your passwords. First things first: Password protect your cell phone. If it is ever lost or stolen, a criminal can easily access all of your personal data. They can even retrieve all of the deleted information from your SIM card, which may have usernames and passwords previously typed. Here are some quick rules regarding passwords:

Rule: Use different passwords with each one of your websites and add characters like “!, -, @, +,/,?”.

Rule: Use characters when setting up secret questions. For example, if youwere born in Brooklyn, New York, your answer should be something like “Brooklyn#1”. If the question is “What elementary school did you attend?”make your answer “Washington#1.” Always find two characters to add to the beginning or end of your answer. 

Rule: Instead of using a password like “German”, make your password a phrase like “I-Speak-German” or “ILoveGerman!”. If it is difficult to rememberdifferent passwords for different websites, try this: If your password is “German” change it to “AmazonGerman” when shopping at Amazon.com’s Website or “*AmericanExpressGerman*” on American Express’ Website. 

5. Turn off your computer when not in use. If your computer is off, no one can hack your personal computer. 

6. Avoid using computers in public places. This includes airports, hotels and cafés. Hackers may have spyware on their computers that allow them to look at allof the bits and pieces of information floating around them, so make sure you don’t login to your accounts in these places.

7. Do not use your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s computers to login to your accounts. This is especially true if there are trust issues between the two of you. Your special someone may load spyware on his or her computer to collect your passwords whenever you log in to your email, Facebook or other accounts.

8. Steer clear of free Wi-Fi.  While we all love freebies, using your neighbors’ open Wi-Fi it could be a trap. When connecting to someone else’s Wi-Fi, they can capture all of your usernames and passwords, or even access your hard drive and download your entire database. When setting up your Wi-Fi, never give your wireless network name. In addition, when setting up security for your Wi-Fi network, do not use WEP. And never broadcast your SSID–the name of your Wi-Fi–in public. Being mindful of these things will make it easier to protect your data.

9. Get your computer repaired by a reputable company. Be careful when takingyour computer to a stranger, including computer technicians from major retailers. There have been several cases where computer repair people install spyware on to customers computers to steal information.

10. Always reformat the hard drive on a computer you plan to donate or sell. This is not 100% guaranteed, but it will make 99% of the people who do not know who to retrieve deleted information off a reformatted hard drive think twice about trying to hack your information. 

Gregory D. Evans is a computer security consultant at Hi-Tech Crime Solutions. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryDEvans.

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