Hackers have some of the best security knowledge out there, but that doesn’t mean they’re attack-proof: 88% of self-identified hackers surveyed at a recent security conference said they think their personally identifiable information is at risk of being compromised online.
At the same time, the vast majority of those surveyed said they believe they’ll never face repercussions for hacking. Thycotic, an IT solutions company, polled 127 hackers at Black Hat USA 2014, a large security conference that took place Aug. 6 and 7 in Las Vegas, and 86% were confident they’d never see punishment for their activities.
If such a large share of hackers are concerned about the vulnerability of their personal information, the average consumer should be on high alert. Data breaches are extremely common and difficult to prevent, which is why you should actively monitor your online accounts, financial and otherwise, for misuse. It’s simple: The sooner you catch a thief, the less damage they can do.
Though the sample size is small, Thycotic’s survey provides some interesting insight on the hacker’s mindset:
- 51% said they’re motivated to hack because it’s fun or they enjoy thrill-seeking
- 18% said they’re motivated by financial gain
- 29% said their actions are driven by social consciousness or a moral compass
- 99% said simple tactics, like phishing, are still effective
- 53% said they believe people are not learning how to avoid such simple attacks
Those last two statistics are really significant. Internet users may balk at the idea they would fall victim to phishing — when an attacker impersonates a company or someone you trust and asks you to share your personal information — but nearly every hacker said such simple attacks are worthwhile. That response should make you seriously consider what you’re doing before interacting with someone who calls you or sends you a message, claiming to be a trusted source.
As far as learning to avoid phishing and similar scams, it’s easier said than done: Think twice. If you’re not sure about the legitimacy of someone contacting you, find their contact information independently and offer to reach out to them once you’ve confirmed you’re dealing with the right person — it’s easy to do this by searching the Internet for a customer service phone number or email address.
All it takes is developing some simple habits to increase your preparedness for dealing with cyberattacks. It’s easy to check your bank account activity with online and mobile access to your accounts, and doing this daily will let you spot anything suspicious nearly as soon as it happens. You can also set up transactional monitoring and alerts when your credit or debit card is used to spend a certain amount of money. Depending on your bank, you may even have the ability to turn your cards off when they’re not in use (this technology is becoming more common).
Beyond credit and debit card fraud, you need to watch out for more serious theft, like someone using your Social Security number. With personally identifying information, an identity thief can open fraudulent accounts in your name without you knowing, but regularly checking your credit scores and credit reports will help you spot such fraud. You can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com every month, and if you notice an unexpected drop in your scores, that could be a sign of potential fraud. You can get your free annual credit reports and check them for unauthorized accounts or errors, which you should immediately dispute.
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