Tips: Top At-Risk Behavior For Security Threats
Cars without seat belts, lead paint, and bike riding without a helmet have become obsolete over the past few decades, thanks to education and behavioral changes. With each generation, new challenges arise, and information security tops the list of modern-day threats. Luckily, a few simple steps can increase a business and individuals’ data and personal information security.
“Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States, and with 70 percent of the American public having had some piece of personal data stolen, we have an epidemic on our hands,” said Frank W. Abagnale, world-renowned expert on identity theft and fraud, and subject of Steven Spielberg's movie Catch Me if You Can. “Many of the incidents of identity theft and data loss from individuals and businesses come from the most unexpected places and can be avoided with simple common sense. When you look at the time and financial costs incurred by ignoring these safeguarding behaviors, it is staggering.”
The first step in prevention is understanding that every-day behaviors have become the equivalent of driving without a seat belt on the data-theft highway. The risk for identity theft and data loss can easily occur when:
- Personal information or financial documents are carelessly thrown away. As recently as the 1990s, ripping junk mail, bank statements and credit cards, then throwing them in the trash ensured a safe trip to the dump. For business owners and individuals, having personal or financial data fall into the wrong hands can lead to thousands of dollars lost, and days and weeks wasted trying to repair a good name (whether a personal credit report or a businesses’ community standing). In fact, each year, businesses pay $74 billion to resolve identity theft and data loss crises. Shredders can destroy documents with vital information in only a few seconds, and the selection of affordably priced shredders is abundant.
- Opening e-mails from strangers or clicking on links to unfamiliar Web sites. Viruses are a major problem in the virtual world. They can wipe out a hard drive or allow someone to take control of a computer and access private files. Also, phishing scams, where the e-mailer poses as someone from a financial institution to get account numbers and passcodes, is growing in prevalence. Anti-virus software and the latest operating systems help protect the security of an individual computer or a company’s computer system.
- Computer files have rarely or never been backed up. Documents, financial information, photos and music, anything kept on a computer can be erased with a hard drive crash. With storage solutions such as an external hard drive from or a secure thumb drive, it only takes a few moments to drag and drop important files to a new location. This behavior is imperative for business owners who keep customer data and records on a computer and want to avoid hours of lost productivity and dollars spent trying to recover the data.
- Bills are left in the mailbox at the end of the driveway with the flag up. Whether someone is an individual or business owner, this is akin to putting a target on private information. It takes only a few moments for a criminal to open a mailbox and take out the outgoing mail to access account numbers, routing numbers, signatures and any other information found in a mailbox. To avoid this scam, bills should be taken to the nearest post office box or paid online.
- Personal information is left lying around. It just takes a moment to organize and move a document into a safe. No one should have access to important personal or business information, including friends, coworkers and customers. A good safe will also protect an individual or businesses’ information in case of a fire, flood or other natural disaster.
- Forgetting to check credit reports and scores. Unfortunately, many people find out about identity theft after it is too late, during times when they need good credit the most, such as applying for a loan. Understanding and diligently watching credit scores for unauthorized activity is one of the first lines of defense against would-be ID thieves.
Although many considerations are involved in decreasing personal and small business security threats, the time and money spent recovering from these crimes is even greater. Behaviors of the past, including the use of lead paint and riding a bike without a helmet, are now deemed unsafe and are fortunately no longer threats to adults or children. Likewise, investing in services and products that increase security will soon become common place, and thieves will be stopped before they cause real harm.