There is a large amount of information swirling about regarding the Equifax breech (hack).  It is easy to become anxious and want to do something immediately to remedy the situation.  But no matter what you choose to do, take a few moments to gain some insight into this recurring 21st Century problem.

In general hacks:

  1. are difficult to determine if and when they occurred.
  2. require a long timeline to establish what information was accessed
  3. are difficult to substantiate information on who hacked and where the stolen information landed.
  4. happen more frequently then we think.
  5. result in stolen information that can be used anytime-today or years from now.

It is common knowledge that one of the best defenses is a strong offense. Here is a list of cyber hygiene suggestions to help you maintain control of your personal identifiable information (PII) today and in the future.

  1. Password protection- Maintain your passwords (at least 8-16 characters) in a secure manner, frequently updating and make sure not use the same password for all of your accounts.  
  2. Check your banking/credit accounts frequently- look for unusual activity, confirm that your contact information (address, email, phone) has not been altered.
  3. Check your credit reports closely to confirm that your personal information is correct and that only your requests for credit appear.
  4. Always be suspicious when you are faced with a request for your “PII” whether it is made verbally, thru email, internet or snail mail.
  5. Verify that your internet device has the latest updates – lessening the risk of vulnerability for your information.
  6. Be extra cautious in the resultant frenzy to contain your information now. Not every site is legitimate and hackers are constantly devising new methods to gain your information.  
  7. Consider Two Factor Authentication (TFA) also known as two step verification which is an extra layer of security that requires not only a password and user name but also some information that only the user knows.  This TFA makes it harder for potential intruders to gain access and steal your personal data or identity. Many banking/financial institutions offer this method.

And finally, the question of freezing accounts has gained momentum.  There are pros and cons for either choice. While freezing an account adds more control over information, some concerns include a lack of confidence in the current Equifax system with the increased demands (phone calls, profile changes, etc.) placed on Equifax making its site more vulnerable.  Also, people who do choose to freeze their accounts may become complacent in thinking that they don’t need to continue to maintain their cyber hygiene for the long run.

Most of us have come to accept that our “PII” is already out there, but we all must adjust to this “new normal” and understand that we are the best gatekeepers of our lives.

Below is a list of more detailed information that can help you determine what your best course of action might be:

5 minute video on Two Factor Authentication http://www.wsj.com/podcasts/why-you-need-to-turn-two-factor-authentication-on/4BE77393-165F-4E70-B988-5D7D6646D6C2.html
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-security-setting-you-must-always-turn-on-1505700241
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/equifax-breach-what-to-do-if-your-data-was-hacked/
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/09/09/equifax-data-breach-could-create-life-long-identity-theft-threat/646765001/

Pam Kleczek
Systems Management
9/13/17