Broker Check

The Cybersecurity Genie is Out of the Bottle (and it’s not going back) . . .

May 01, 2024

It happened again. Just this week, I got an email from a client informing me that their data had been compromised by a former bank they used for a loan. Almost monthly, I get an email just like this one from a client. I recently discovered that the post office received a fraudulent change of address card that changed my permanent address to California. 

Like it or not, our world has dramatically changed over the last few decades. Since the beginning of the internet, and further advanced by the cell phone, the information super age is here and is not going away. Our electronic footprints have never been more significant.  

Because virtually every person has an online presence (whether you want to have one or not), that opens up all kinds of possibilities for criminals.  

In other words, the cybersecurity genie is out of the bottle and isn't going back. 

The statistics that involve cybersecurity paint a vivid picture of the profound nature of the problem: 

  • In 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 5.7 million fraud and identity theft reports.
  • Georgia, Maryland, Delaware, Nevada, and Florida were the five states reporting the most identity theft cases per capita. South Dakota had the lowest.
  • The median loss for victims of fraud cases is about $500.
  • Total losses are estimated to be $10.2 billion.
  • Every 22 seconds, identity fraud claims a new victim.
  • Nearly 33% of Americans have faced some kind of identity theft attempt. 

Just look at the number of reports of identity theft and fraud to the FTC since 2001:

 

I suspect the problem is going to get worse before it gets better. It's not a matter of if but when your life will be temporarily upended by some form of cybercrime. 

And lest you think the solution is simply avoiding doing anything online with your finances – turns out they will get your data the old-fashioned way – by stealing your physical documents. The FTC reports that over half of all identity theft comes from physical documents. 

There are a few steps you can take to help shield yourself against paper fraud – 

  • Registering for United States Postal Service Informed Delivery so you know what mail to expect each day.
  • Buy a shredder and use it for any statements or other documents, including anything that may include any account numbers, etc.
  • Go paperless with as many companies as possible.
  • Avoid keeping sensitive information in your wallet or purse. 

Whether you realize it or not, your electronic footprint is bigger than you would like to admit, whether you intentionally created it (i.e., you have a large social media presence) or by simple association (i.e., online banking, Venmo). However large your electronic footprint, some scams have become commonplace: 

  • Email phishing is the most common, and tactics like phony hyperlinks lure email recipients to share their personal information.
  • Malware phishing involves planting malware disguised as a trustworthy attachment in an email. In some cases, opening a malware attachment can harm your system.
  • “Vishing” has attackers in fraudulent call centers attempting to trick people into providing sensitive information over the phone. 

So, how do you defend yourself against these endless attacks from cybercriminals? 

Here are just a few steps to take to safeguard your information: 

  • Consider us a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when in public.
  • Create strong passwords – 16-character passwords are the hardest to steal. Make sure your password includes upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Additionally, use a password manager program that can create and remember strong passwords for you. Examples include NordPass, 1Password, RoboForm, Keeper, Bitdefender. I personally use RoboForm.
  • Contact the national credit bureaus to request fraud alerts, security freezes, and opt-outs of prescreened credit offers. The three national credit bureaus are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
  • Use multi-factor authentication wherever possible. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s used when you log into an account. Either a text is sent to your phone, or you are asked a question or series of questions like “What was your first car” before you can enter the website. 

While no security system can offer 100% protection from a cybercrime happening, by remaining diligent with your safeguards, you can at least ensure that when it does happen, you’ll catch it quickly, and minimize the damage. 

These cybercriminals are betting you're not going to be on top of your cybersecurity game so that they can get in and get out before you have a chance to notice the fraud.  

If you have any additional questions about the steps we take to protect your data, please do not hesitate to reach out.  

Stay diligent, my friends.