It’s Not Just Target Customers: 8 Things You Can Do to Protect Yourself From Future Security Breaches

Security BreachIf you are a Target customer, you must have heard that the information of 40 million credit cards have been stolen from Target stores. If you have used a credit card at Target, this is very concerning. But the truth is this can happen anywhere, to ANYONE, at any store.

Wondering what to do?

Don’t panic. Here are some good recommendations for steps that you can take now to limit your exposure for this fraud at ALL stores, and to protect your other cards as well.

1. Replace Your Credit Cards to ones with New Security Chip Features
Call all your credit card companies and ask them to REPLACE your magnetic stripe card with the new and improved Security Chip and Pin. If you are not familiar with these cards, it looks like a standard credit card, but it has an embedded chip into the card (about ½ “ square). These cards are almost impossible to reproduce because of the chip technology, and unlike a regular magnetic stripe card that hackers can make in few minutes – this will stop them. However, keep in mind that if you use ANY credit card (including the Chip card) for online transactions, and the information was stolen in the transaction – that will not stop the hackers from making new purchases using your online information. The Chip comes to play ONLY to prevent the bad guys from easily reproducing new cards and going shopping with your credit card into stores.

2. Know Which Companies Can Replace Your Card Easily
American Express replaced our credit cards without any problems and were very kind and understanding of our concerns (their own private cards, not Delta, or Costco Amex cards). They were able to replace my personal and my business cards at no cost at all to me. Cards arrived via UPS secured envelopes. But other major bank issued cards, like Bank of America/Visa, are still bit behind. They were able to help only with personal credit cards, but not yet able to provide secure cards for business. In Europe – where smart cards with chip technology are the norm, there will be many places that WILL NOT accept a US card without a chip built in. When traveling internationally, it is a good idea to take with you at least one card that has chip technology.

3. Have One Card Exclusively for Internet Purchases
For added control and to limit the damage – have ONE card that you call your INTERNET card. Set a limit with your credit card company on that card for what you think is reasonable for your average expenses per month on internet purchases. All of your transactions against online vendors will go on that card, and protect your other credit cards that may have much higher limits. If there is fraud on this card, the worst case scenario is that it will automatically stop when you hit your top limit, and the bank will not allow further transactions.

4. Use Strong Antivirus on Your Computer
PC or Mac (and even more on PC). The simplest way to steal your money is to install a Keylogger (a small malware infection from an infected web server, or any email that is infected). The Keylogger will record ALL of your keystrokes and send them out to a control center run by the bad guy. So when he sees you login to your bank’s website he can track your username and password by your keystrokes. You just handed out your entire banking information. The first thing to do is to avoid this (even if you are on a Mac) is to install a free program from Sophos.com. In addition, always be vigilant about where are you going on the web, and what emails you choose to open. Have a good IT guy check your system once a year at least, and run programs to clean your systems such as Malwarebytes (and if you don’t know what it is – We will be happy to assist you).

5. Use Dual Factor Authentication
Dual factor authentication is an option that many banks and investment firms offer, and it will rely on your smartphone or other security device to provide a key that is unique per transaction. Your phone or second device can receive a text message from your bank every time that you attempt to login. A hacker can’t break to the account without having your phone in his possession. We highly recommended this option.

6. Avoid Free and Public Wi-Fi
Do not use ANY bank or online transaction at any coffee shop, public place, or anything with shared open Wi-Fi. Use ONLY your private network or Hot Spot on your phone for this stuff. I strongly recommend against the use of any public Wi-Fi network, but sadly it is a very common practice because it is so easy to do. This is a very big security risk, and one of the easiest way to break into your system.

7. Educate Yourself on Other Simple Security Features
Lastly, I know that each one of us got a job to do, and we have little time to be security experts. I am not asking that of you. There is a big gap between spending all day on protecting your computer, and being aware of simple measures to avoid getting into trouble. Please visit our security section in our knowledgebase to read more about what can be done to have better security for your computers and your financial information.

8. When in Doubt, Take Action Immediately
If you think you have a security breach, you should call us at once to limit the damage, and call your banks immediately to alert them of the problem.

If you have more questions about safeguards you need to take to make your personal and business networks more secure, don’t hesitate to call us. Experienced and reliable, we at Accurate Data Networks are your technology partners for the future.

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