Computer security is a high priority for me. I think it should be for everyone. One of my former clients is an executive at Experian. In addition to credit monitoring, they offer monitoring of the “dark web” where they watch for my personal identity information that is sold on the black market. They also have a blog that provides helpful information.
A recent blog suggested a technique that seems totally obvious now that they said it. It addresses one of my biggest concerns. Here it is – many sites use a security question like: “What’s your mother’s maiden name?”, “What is the name of your favorite pet?” and similar questions. But because many websites use the same questions, if one website is compromised, I am exposed on other sites.
Make it up
Their suggestion is to not tell the truth! Make up the answer to your mother’s maiden name or pet’s name. The name is not validated. You only need to remember what you answered if you forget your password. Your mother’s maiden name can be different for every site if you choose!
Here are some other great suggestions:
1.Check your social network accounts to be sure they are not more public than you intend. If you enroll on a non-social media site and they offer you the option to sign in using your Facebook sign-on (or similar share sign-on) you should read the small print. The site and Facebook exchange a lot of information about you and your activity. You may not want a shared dossier. I know, I know, it’s a hassle to look at that fine print, but it’s more of a hassle to undo the damage later!
2.Don’t use public WIFI (like in coffee shops) for account transactions or social media unless you have a VPN (virtual private network).
3.Don’t write your name and email on lists where others can see them.
4.Don’t verbally share your cell number when others can overhear it.
5.Don’t put your Social Security Number on forms at your dentist’s or doctor’s offices. (When it’s time to file insurance, share it separately.)
6. Using the two-factor authentication option takes a bit of time, but again, it saves you a lot of trouble later on.
7. Update your passwords regularly for important accounts. (I do these updates with bank and credit card accounts, but not with subscriptions or other low-risk access.)
There are services that will monitor the dark web to identify your contact information if it is for sale. It does require you to have confidence in the provider of the service because you give them all your information to search for on the dark web. A disaster like the Equifax compromise could expose all of your critical data. It is a worthwhile risk in my opinion, but it is a personal choice.