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Why is Cybersecurity Important?

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use. Most personal information is stored either on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, and knowing how to protect that information is of the utmost importance for both individuals and organizations.

PII Compromise, Identity Theft and Fraud 

Most data breaches involve lost, stolen, or compromised Personal Identifiable Information ( PII is any information that can be used to trace the identity of an individual directly or indirectly Some PII is sensitive and requires stricter handling guidelines due to its nature
Examples of this include Social Security number, driver's license number, financial information, biometric identifiers (i e fingerprints), and financial information.

Stolen PII can be used or sold for identity theft schemes immediately, tomorrow, next month, or even years later The dark web offers a wide range of products and services that monetize stolen personal/financial information, corporate and social media account details, as well as counterfeit documents and money.

In addition, it provides various malicious tools and malware that allows cybercriminals to create official documents using stolen data Some examples of fraudulent activities include draining bank accounts, running up charges on credit cards, opening new accounts, and filing fraudulent tax refunds.

Recommendations to reduce the risk of PII compromise and identity theft, as well as resources for reporting fraudulent activity:

  • Monitor all personal and financial accounts and report any suspicious activity or fraudulent charges immediately

  • Use a resource, such as haveibeenpwned com, to determine if your information was exposed and what data was included in the breach

  • Safeguard sensitive electronic files using encryption and privacy screens, and keep offline backups of important files

  • Reduce your digital footprint and the chances of being targeted by 
    • Minimizing your online presence and PII exposure
    • Checking privacy and security settings
    • Exercising caution when uploading PII to websites
      or social media
    • Deactivating or deleting accounts that are no
      longer in use
  • Conduct internet searches of you and your family's PII and remove any information found

  • Enable passwords on devices to prevent unauthorized physical access to device resources and data

  • Be sure to create strong and secure passwords

  • Update passwords frequently (i e quarterly)

  • Be sure not to share your passwords with anyone

  • Refrain from using the same password for multiple accounts and enable multifactor authentication (MFA) where available
    • MFA adds an additional layer of protection to the login process and incorporates something you know (password or PIN), something you have access to (one time code), and something specific to you (biometrics)
    • Even if a threat actor gains access to an account password, they will not be able to access the associated account without the user's other factors of authentication
  • Sign up for free online alerts offered by your financial institutions to help detect fraudulent activity

  • If identity theft has occurred, file a police report with your local police department, as it may be required by financial and credit institutions, and visit identitytheft gov to file a report and receive a recovery plan

  • Use and maintain anti virus software and a firewall

  • Exercise caution with questionable communications phone calls, text messages, and emails

  • Avoid responding to requests for PII, login credentials, or financial information received via email, especially without verifying the requestor

  • Do not click on links or open attachments that come with unverified emails

Credit Freezes

Credit freezes are another free and effective way to reduce your risk of identity theft Credit freezes do not protect PII, but they do protect against its misuse by restricting access to your credit report and preventing the opening of new accounts A credit freeze does not affect your credit score, prevent you from getting a free annual credit report, or prevent fraudulent transactions on existing accounts.

To freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus, visit the following links or call the phone numbers listed below Please note, you will need to provide your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other personal information.

If freezing your credit is not currently an option, contact the national credit and request to place a free fraud alert on your credit file These alerts notify you when new credit accounts are opened in your name or if changes are made to existing accounts, but do not proactively prevent fraudulent activity on existing accounts, so it is important to continue to monitor your accounts for suspicious activity There are short term fraud alerts, available for one year, as well as extended fraud alerts which provide credit protection for seven years.