Protect yourself from future data breaches

WASHINGTON – With so many government employees in the D.C. area, the massive data breach of 4 million former and current U.S. government workers hits hard at home.

How can Americans protect themselves in this age of ongoing cybersecurity wars? Ken Colburn, from Data Doctors, has some tips.

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Although news of the data breach is just surfacing, it actually took place in December; the U.S. government found out in April. And, ironically, Colburn says there is some comfort in this fact.

“Obviously, if they were going to go after lots of the 4 million breached records, people would have started seeing that already,” he says.

U.S. government officials suspect China is to blame for the hack, and Colburn says, “There’s probably a more nefarious plan, more so than just typical identity theft.”

In any case, he says the standard breach protocol applies to this situation.

“That is to watch your credit statements. You can put fraud alerts on through all of the major credit vendors.  You can use free services like Credit Karma that will basically monitor for you,” Colburn says.

If you are still worried about the breach, Colburn says you can make the aggressive move of freezing your credit by going through the three credit bureaus. This means no new accounts can be set up with your information.

This is not for folks who are buying a house, trying to buy a car or who are trying to rent an apartment, Colburn says. But it’s one way to make sure nothing happens.

You should take steps to protect your identity from future breaches. Colburn says to start by putting the least information out there about yourself when you’re online or when you’re using social media, and he adds it’s important to always check privacy settings.

For those Facebook users who get birthday wishes, he says, “It’s wonderful to get all those well-wishes from all your Facebook friends, but you’ve made it very obvious what your birthday is.”

Colburn says we’re living in a different age and just as you protect yourself from dangers when you drive, you must also take precautions while driving on the cyber highway.

“Cybersecurity should be the top of the list for everyone from government down to the local entities, just because this is not going to go away,” he says. “We are the biggest target in the world and one of the most connected and that’s always going to make us a huge target.”

Cyber wars are already happening, Colburn says. So it’s time to get ready for battle.

“This wouldn’t surprise me if this were a state-sponsored hack specifically since they’re going after government records. This is a huge, you know one of the biggest breaches of [U.S.] government information that’s ever occurred.  I don’t think this is by accident. This looks very strategic and I think it’s part of a bigger plan and this is not the last you’re going to hear about this type of thing.”

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