Ashley Madison hack – The importance of securing data

The release of personal data from the Ashley Madison hack offers us a reminder of the importance of data security.

I have just read the account  detailing the extent of the data breach that AshleyMadison.com suffered earlier this month.

As with all data breaches, the first thing people ask themselves is, “does it affect me and what precautions can I take?”  When a large amount of data is stolen that includes personal details such as credit card numbers and date of birth, you can take measures now to minimize the risk of your data being misused in the future.

What can we do to protect ourselves after a data breach?

  • Ensure your online accounts are not using the email address and a password that could be guessed from personal information, if you are then change the password.
  • Keep a close watch on your credit reports. This will help you identify if someone is using your identity to take a line of credit in your name. Most credit scoring agencies allow you to run a report for free at least once.
  • Spammers may send emails that look like they are coming from valid sources. Make sure to carefully scrutinize these emails – don’t click on links that look suspicious – and if in doubt contact the sending organization directly to ensure it’s an official communication.
  • Avoid using the same email address or profile name across multiple online accounts. For example, have a primary email address used for recovery of forgotten passwords and account information. Have a secondary email address for offline and online retail transactions. Have a third for financial accounts and sensitive information.
  • Set privacy settings.  Lock down access to your personal data on social media sites, these are commonly used by cybercriminals to socially engineer passwords. Try AVG PrivacyFix, it’s a great tool that will assist you with this.
  • Check electronic statements and correspondence.  Receipts for transactions that you don’t recognize could show up in your mail.
  • Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication
  • Have updated security software.  Updated antivirus software will block access to many phishing sites that ask for your personal data.

Lastly, you may want to consider enlisting an identity monitoring service.  Commercial companies that have been breached often offer this re-actively to the victims but understanding where or if your identity is being abused in real-time will give you the ability to manage issues as they happen.

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