One of the worst debt tragedies that can happen is when you have done everything right, and still find yourself underwater, drowning in debt. You didn’t overspend. You didn’t forget to make a payment. And you even put a little back for a rainy day. Yet when you go to pay for those groceries with your credit card, you find that you are over your limit. Something has gone horribly wrong.
Chances are, you have become the victim of identity theft. Someone is running around in a brand new pair of Nikes, while dragging your good credit through the mud. There are things companies are doing to keep your personal information safe. But we know from recent headlines about data breaches that it is not enough. Here is some of what they are doing, and what you should be doing to supplement their efforts:
Advanced Security Software
The more conscientious companies are using advanced network security packages, which Internet security software company TrendMicro states “enables you to detect, analyze, and respond to today’s stealthy, targeted attacks in real time.” These types of packages are often deployed in small and mid-sized businesses. Large corporations often use in-house solutions that are not always very robust. Or, like Sony, make a conscious decision not to spend money on security, mistakenly think that the short-term benefit would outweigh the long-term risk.
On a personal level, you should also be using strong security software on your Windows PC and Android phone. Fanboy pride does nothing to change the fact that these are the easiest attack vectors for criminals, and the places where your information is most vulnerable to exploit.
Disliking this fact will not make it less true. Refusing to use protection software on your personal devices that are most vulnerable to attack is as shoddy as large companies using less than excellent security packages. Your credit is your responsibility. Protect it with the best software you can afford.
How secure does your password need to be? Don’t feel bad. Companies don’t know either. There is a tug of war between you and the companies with which you do business. Everybody loses, especially you. You can’t do any business online without creating a user name and password for each site you visit. Often, they demand your user name be your email address. For any of a number of reasons, that is a horrible idea.
But the real war is over the password. You want to create the simplest password you can for ease of input and memory. They want to force you into the most complex password possible for maximum security and covering their liability. Neither extreme works for you. And there really is no middle ground.
Your password is practically guaranteed to be something you can’t remember, If you had only one such password, you might be okay. But the truth is we have more like 19 passwords to remember, most of which are still not strong enough. Currently, there is no full-proof solution as even password managers are vulnerable. But as of now, they are still probably our best defense against weak passwords.
One of the most important tech topics of the decade, perhaps the century, is encryption. It speaks to a basic human right. Snowden taught us that our own government is spying on us. Since then, we have come to the realization that there is nothing we can do on the legal front to make them stop. What the government knows but does not care about is, if they have backdoor access to our personal information, so do the hackers.
Governments around the world are actively working to make data security weaker on consumer devices. They do not care who steels your identity and makes hash of your good credit. They only care that they have unfettered access to all of your personal information anytime, anywhere.
Tim Cook reiterates Apple’s stand on encryption; says privacy and national security can co-exist. By contrast, Blackberry has criticized Apple’s stance on privacy, and vowed to cooperate with government requests for information on their customers. As a consumer, you need to use security software on vulnerable systems, use better passwords, or password managers, and do business with companies that provide end-to-end encryption.