October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Throughout the month, Vanderbilt University Information Technology will share tips for staying safe online. This article focuses on protecting your personal information.
Identity theft occurs when an individual’s identity is stolen. The theft can include medical, financial and personally identifiable information. Thieves can use this information to open new credit card accounts, steal existing accounts, sell information and identities on the dark web, and commit other types of crimes. Key things attackers target to steal personal information and identities include social media accounts, bank accounts, names, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s licenses, and social security numbers.
Attackers have adapted over time, learning new ways to locate and collect your personal information. Social media accounts are targeted to expose interests and personal information. Credit card scanners can be used when a thief walks past your wallet or purse to collect credit card and banking information. Devices that connect to the Internet in public places can send signals to attackers exposing passwords, online activity, or other personal information.
Recovering from identity theft can be a tedious and difficult process, often leaving the victim with bad credit, financial problems or worse. To protect yourself against identity theft, follow the tips below:
- Create strong passwords. Create strong passwords with a mix of numbers, characters, and symbols, and use a variety of passwords for your accounts. Use a password manager such as Guardian or Last pass to help you remember your passwords.
- Use multi-factor authentication. Use two-step verification whenever possible, including on mobile devices, laptops, iPads, and apps that may store sensitive information.
- Protect sensitive information. Refrain from posting sensitive personally identifiable information on social media platforms as it is frequently skimmed off by attackers.
- Protect personal information and devices. Protect your personal and financial information on your computer with virus protection software, ad blockers, and firewalls such as Windows Defender, AdBlock or McAfee Total Protection.
- Evaluate your sources. Always make sure you have access to a reliable source before downloading any content or software.
- Monitor your credit report. Periodically check your credit report for suspicious activity. This will help to become aware of fraudulent activity, which can be reported.
If you have any questions about cybersecurity or identity theft protection, please contact VUIT Support at 615-343-9999, or submit a request for assistance to it.vanderbilt.edu.
If you receive a suspicious email, please forward it to [email protected] and the security team will notify you if it is a phishing attempt.