How to Better Protect Your Online Identity

With the recent security breach through Sony's Playstation Network and roughly 75 million individual's private information being exposed, many are scrambling to recover from one of the largest data breaches ever which could cost the company roughly $24 billion. And although there isn't much you can do to prevent a company's server from being breached, there are a few tactics you can use which can hopefully ease the damage if your information was ever to get into the wrong hands.
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Although you're not able to provide fake names, addresses, credit card information, etc.. when buying things online or signing up for a service, you can do your best to ensure those pieces of information are kept as safe as possible.

First is to be sure that wherever you're sending your data it is through an encrypted connection. An encrypted connection will essentially scramble whatever information you are sharing with it so only its intended receiver could de-code it. Websites utilize what is known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to achieve this. If you want to make sure you're on a secured webpage, look for the lock icon on your browser or double check the url to see if it begins with "https://". For more information on SSL you can read about it here. Unfortunately, as we mentioned earlier, Sony was not using an encrypted connection to protect their customer's information which means, once their initial security frame was breached, it was literally as easy as dumping the info onto the hackers' hard drives.

Another approach to securing your information is through careful password protection. First and foremost, you should do your best to use unique passwords for every account you register. That way if one password is compromised, it does not put other accounts at risk. You must use a password which is difficult to replicate. A combination of letters (capital and lowercase), numbers, and symbols (if allowed) in a random sequence is the best form of protection. Hackers have tools that could help them "guess" your password more easily if you use something like your last name and birthdate. Additionally, take care in assigning meaningful yet obscure answers to your secret questions (if the website features that option). Answering "ice cream" to the favorite food question is a bit risky.

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The most secure method (and our recommended) is to use random passwords full of unreadable letters and numbers for each and every account. "But how will I remember them all?" No need to. There are various password management tools out there that can keep an encrypted archive of all your passwords as well as other sensitive information like bank accounts. Our favorite bit of software is called 1 Password which has a lot of functionality combined with a sleek interface.

Finally, one way hackers attempt to gather information about you before or after they conduct a personal attack is to search the web for any information they can dig up without breaking into your system. If you'd like to be made aware when people are searching your name, you can sign up for Google Alerts . If you notice a spike in activity, you may want to pay closer attention to your bank accounts, just to be sure nothing has gone awry.

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