2017 has been the year we all learned that no matter how secure you think your data is, a dedicated enough hacker can always retrieve it. This past year the headlines have been flooded with news stories about Equifax, Sony, Target and other massive brands that have been plundered by hackers looking to steal users' private information.
Chances are your information has been compromised this year. Not to sensationalize this story, but when over 200 million Americans' personal information is hacked, it is safer to assume you are one of them and take the appropriate steps to protect your identity. The amount of breaches that took place in 2017 is staggering.
PrivacyRights.org released a report identifying at least 422 data breaches that occurred this year alone, an average of more than one each day.
Identity thieves take your pick
Since reading about every single one of the breaches that took place this year would probably take the rest of the year, we thought it would be a good idea to share some of the larger ones that may have flown by under your radar:
- Sonic - the popular drive-in food service reported that on September 26, the payment systems of over 3,600 stores were affected by a data hack.
- S.E.C. - The Securities and Exchange Commission said on September 20 that hackers broke into a system known as "Edgar" designed to help small businesses file S.E.C. forms, an unknown amount of personal information was revealed about users of this system.
- Keller Williams Realty - Reported on July 18 that unauthorized third parties gained access to the names, addresses, and SSNs of an unknown number of agents.
- DocuSign - A breach on the popular electronic document signing service that occurred on May 15 resulted in numerous malware phishing attacks to DocuSign clients.
- U.S. Labor Department - Reported on March 27 that at least 2,100,000 job seekers had their names, birth dates, and SSNs exposed in an unauthorized data breach by sophisticated hackers.
This is just a tiny sample of the litany of data breaches that occurred this year. A few others included HBO, UCLA, IRS, DNC, Instagram, and many, many more. So you need to protect yourself.
Establish two-factor authentication
You may be familiar with this process already. Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra verification step to the login process of most of your important accounts.
When using 2FA you will receive a text message notification with an extra 4-6 digit number that you must enter to log in. This means that a hacker must also physically steal your phone in order to access your accounts. Since most hackers are looking for the quick and easy route, trusting 2FA to keep you safe is a pretty solid bet.
Tightening the defense
If you suspect that someone is pretending to be you, it may be prudent to initiate a credit freeze on your account. By doing this, no company will be able to run a credit score on your name, and no new accounts can be created. This may appear to be sabotaging your own finances, but in light of this year's data breaches, it is becoming increasingly common to see.
Finally, don't wait around for your identity to be stolen before you act. Hackers are always on the lookout for easy targets, and we know they have a lot of names to work with. Just throwing an extra metaphorical "bolt-lock" on your identity is enough to prevent even the most committed hackers from cracking your information.
The NSA can’t keep a secret! Why the agency is a joke to hackers
Want to learn more about one of the most egregious data breaches of the year? The NSA infiltration earlier this year gave hackers access to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of U.S. cyber-weapons that were subsequently sold and used throughout the world.