Every six seconds, a personal computer is hacked. Often, African Americans do notÂ think about computer security in the same manner they think about personalÂ protection, including buying Mace, a gun or a burglar alarm.
In fact, 80% of computer hacking boil down to research. Statistics show that for seven out of 10 people who get hacked, itâ€™s because they indirectly gave theÂ hacker their password. With computer hacking incidents on the rise, itâ€™s importantÂ to educate yourself so that you donâ€™t fall victim. Below are 10 ways to protectÂ yourself from a cyber security attack:
1. Keep your personal information private. On social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter, for example, donâ€™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, donâ€™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 socialÂ media, banking, financial services, credit card, shopping and childrenâ€™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 canÂ even retrieve all of the deleted information from your SIM card, which may haveÂ usernames and passwords previously typed. Here are some quick rules regardingÂ passwords:
Rule: Use different passwords with each one of your websites and addÂ characters like â€œ!, -, @, +,/,?â€.
Rule: Use characters when setting up secret questions. For example, if youwere born in Brooklyn, New York, your answer should be something likeÂ â€œBrooklyn#1â€. If the question is â€œWhat elementary school did you attend?â€make your answer â€œWashington#1.â€ Always find two characters to add toÂ the beginning or end of your answer.
Rule: Instead of using a password like â€œGermanâ€, make your password aÂ phrase like â€œI-Speak-Germanâ€ or â€œILoveGerman!â€. If it is difficult to rememberdifferent passwords for different websites, try this: If your password isÂ â€œGermanâ€ change it to â€œAmazonGermanâ€ when shopping at Amazon.comâ€™s WebsiteÂ or â€œ*AmericanExpressGerman*â€ on American Expressâ€™ Website.
5. Turn off your computer when not in use. If your computer is off, noÂ one can hack your personal computer.
6. Avoid using computers in public places. This includes airports, hotels andÂ cafÃ©s. 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 donâ€™tÂ login to your accounts in these places.
7. Do not use your boyfriendâ€™s or girlfriendâ€™s computers to login toÂ your accounts. This is especially true if there are trust issues between the two ofÂ you. Your special someone may load spyware on his or her computer to collectÂ your passwords whenever you log in to your email, Facebook or other accounts.
8. Steer clear of free Wi-Fi. Â While we all love freebies, using your neighborsâ€™ openÂ Wi-Fi it could be a trap. When connecting to someone elseâ€™s Wi-Fi, they can captureÂ all of your usernames and passwords, or even access your hard drive and downloadÂ your entire database. When setting up your Wi-Fi, never give your wireless networkÂ name. In addition, when setting up security for your Wi-Fi network, do not useÂ WEP. And never broadcast your SSIDâ€“the name of your Wi-Fiâ€“in public. BeingÂ 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.Â There have been several cases where computer repair people install spyware on toÂ customers computers to steal information.
10. Always reformat the hard drive on a computer you plan to donate or sell.Â This is not 100% guaranteed, but it will make 99% of the people who do notÂ know who to retrieve deleted information off a reformatted hard drive think twiceÂ about trying to hack your information.
Gregory D. Evans is a computer security consultant at Hi-Tech Crime Solutions. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryDEvans.