OPINION: Smack back that big hack attack

Bill Crane's Opinion Piece for Champion newspaper

“No single company or industry can stop or be held responsible for protecting the security and vulnerabilities of the Internet,” former Equifax CEO, Rick Smith, from his prepared statement and testimony before Congress on October 3, 2017.
It is no longer a matter of if, more a matter of when, your personal identity, finances or credit history is likely to be compromised. A sad fact of the recent breach of the credit files of more than 143 million Americans is the better job you have done building and protecting a solid credit history, the more likely you become an attractive a target for identity theft.

The Equifax and Yahoo data breaches, and numerous previous ones of banks, retailers and others with millions to spend and vast IT and cyber-security programs and staff, prove that no one is invulnerable and no system is fail-safe. The belated apologies by Equifax’s former CEO focused partly on the limits of the company’s abilities to secure their data from the most effective hackers and data phishing.

So if a 115-year old, Fortune 1000, multi-billion dollar company’s financial and data center can be hacked, how can one protect their business and family?

Subscribe to an Identity Protection Service – Perhaps the best known is LifeLock (lifelock.com), but there are many similar services, and insurers likely also offer identity theft  protection and coverage for most or all legal and related credit restoration expenses for reasonably low premium add-ons to homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies.

Freeze Your Credit – Part of the Equifax apology package, the company now allows free credit freezes, which they will make available to all consumers by January 2018. A freeze is not always practical though, as you buy a new home or make other major purchase, need loans to finance a child’s education, etc… Fortunately, credit can be frozen and unfrozen, and only by the individual—though it is again not as easy as flipping a switch. Think more of the time it takes applying for a new credit card in terms of ease of use. If one chooses to freeze, one will need to do this with all three major U.S. credit bureaus.

Stick with Paper Statements – Banks, brokers and most every credit card issuer and merchant wants consumers to accept the ease and low-cost option of online statements and banking. These may seem like a time-saver at first, but if/when a hack occurs, try presenting documentation on accounts that can no longer be accessed, or questioning fraudulent charges which can’t be back up with paper statements. Trust me on this one
Invest time and dime in getting prepared – An inaugural two day CyberHub Summit comes to Atlanta on November 8-9, 2017 in the Omni Hotel @ CNN Center. The state of Georgia has just invested $50-million in funding a Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in Augusta, where cyber-security will be a key focus. The conference will include internet and data security experts from across the globe. Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal will be a CyberHub Summit keynote speaker. Robert Herjavc, from ABC’s Shark Tank, and CEO of the Herjavec Group will lead another session.

“Unfortunately, roughly 40 percent of all threats come from the inside of a company. You’ve got to have some way to monitor your own employees… Does everybody need to have access to the payroll server?” Herjavec warns.

The conference is aimed at C-suite executives in Information Technology as well as small- to medium-size business owners. The recent rash of big league hacks may ratchet up one’s need to repair, update and prevent security breaches of finances as well as those of a business. More information on the summit, and registration details is available at www.cyberhubsummit.com

“Go to your state’s Driver’s License Bureau, and request a new Driver’s License Number. This is a key piece of I.D., and anyone working from the Equifax hacked data is going to be using your old number,” says James Azar, co-founder of CyberHub USA, the organizers of the conference.

I’m not someone who puts much stock in the effectiveness of the Russian government attempting to hack and influence U.S. elections. Though there is a clear and mounting pile of evidence that they certainly tried. I do expect that they will be back. Forewarned is forearmed.

There is no one else responsible for protecting your identity other than you, so get out there and take smart measures to smack back that next hack attack.

Bill Crane also serves as a political analyst and commentator for Channel 2’s Action News, WSB-AM News/Talk 750 and now 95.5 FM, as well as a columnist for The Champion, DeKalb Free Press and Georgia Trend. Crane is a DeKalb native and business owner, living in Scottdale. You can reach him or comment on a column at bill.csicrane@gmail.com.

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