Five Ways to Help Secure Your Data in Light of the IRS Breach

Five Ways to Help Secure Your Data in Light of the IRS Breach

It’s been floating around in the media recently, the attack where hackers “used taxpayer-specific data, including Social Security information, date of birth and street addresses, from non-IRS sources to gain unauthorized access to information on approximately 100,000 tax accounts through the ‘Get Transcript’ application.” This is just another example that proves the sophistication of hackers already having all the information they need to steal identities.

Advice from various security experts actually leaves all but a warm fuzzy feeling, saying that people can do nothing to secure their identity; however, there are some things people can do to make it more difficult for hackers:

  1. Use multifactor authentication. If any of your accounts offer this, turn it on. What typically happens is that you enter your password and then you’ll receive either an email or text message with a one-time use code that you must enter before you are allowed access to your account.

  2. Change your passwords…again. This is talked about until people are blue in the face from saying it and people’s ears bleed from hearing it, but apparently it still needs to be said. Change your password frequently and NEVER use the same password twice.

    Consider making your password a sentence, consisting of upper and lower case letters and random symbols. Or, create an anagram based on your favorite song lyrics, movie quotes or sayings. For example, from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore said, “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic…capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” This would become the following anagram: “Wa,ImNsHo,OmIsOm…CoBiIaRi.” (Take that, hackers!)

  3. Security questions are a thing of the past. Most sites use security questions like, “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “What was the name of your first school?” and since public record searches on the Internet are simple, it’s fairly easy for hackers to get these answers.

    A recent study revealed that within 10 tries, an attacker would have a 39% chance of guessing a Korean-speaking user’s answer to the question, “What is your city of birth?” and a 43% chance of guessing his or her favorite food.

  4. Monitor your credit. Do this frequently throughout the year, using free services.

  5. Freeze your credit. Simply call Equifax, Experian or TransUnion and ask to have your account frozen. The agency will then mail a one-time PIN or password to unfreeze your account when you are ready.

About the Author

Ginger Hill is Group Social Media Manager.

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