Safety Precautions against Data Breaches

Sep 2016


Another week, another data breach. Yahoo announced last week that near the end of 2014 it was a victim of a massive data breach. Over a half-billion accounts were compromised. Login information, passwords, security questions and other information was compromised. In fact, according to industry sources, this was the largest data breach in history. It seems that we are getting desensitized to data breaches and that too many of us just kind of say “oh well” and just go on with our business. Unfortunately, we cannot do that. It is important that we take these attacks seriously and do what we have to do to protect our information. Of course, there’s not one thing you can do that will 100 percent guarantee that your account won’t be hacked. There are some safety precautions you can take that will reduce the risk and at the same time, if you are a victim it will lessen the consequences.

The first thing everyone needs to do is to monitor their on-line accounts. Whether it is bank accounts, brokerage accounts or whatever, it is important that you always monitor these accounts. For example, I have signed up for alerts on my charge card which means whenever my charge card is used I am notified. You need to do the same thing. Furthermore, if there is any unusual or suspicious activity on one of your accounts you need to take action immediately. For example, if you get notice that there is a charge on your charge card that you are unsure of, you need to immediately contact the charge card company. Even if it’s a nominal amount such as one dollar, you still need to take action immediately. You do not want to give the thieves any inroads into your account. Monitoring your accounts does not mean looking at them once a quarter. Unfortunately, you have to do it much more frequently and many times you have to do it weekly.

To protect yourself, whether you use Yahoo or not, it is important to constantly change your password; also, don’t use the same password for all your accounts. Once again, you can’t just change your password once a year; you have to do it more frequently. I recognize it is a hassle and it is a pain; however, in reality it’s no longer optional, it is mandatory.

It also makes sense on a regular basis and particularly if you use Yahoo, to change your security questions. When cyber crooks get information, many times they also compromise your security questions such as they did with Yahoo.

In addition, something you may wish to consider is that many places now have some sort of login verification where they’ll send you a text message or even call you when someone tries to access your account from an unknown computer. In fact, Yahoo offers a service that links your cell phone to the Yahoo mobile app. You can’t access your account without the phone.

If you are like most of us and use the internet to transact business such as paying bills, doing banking or any type of financial transaction, you need to take cyber security seriously. Millions and millions of Americans have had their identity stolen and accounts compromised. If you think banks and financial institutions are on top of this, think again. After all, Yahoo just announced last week that it was hacked in 2014. We have no idea what the crooks were doing with that information for the last two years.

To say that you are no longer going to use the internet to transact personal financial business is somewhat unrealistic. After all, in today’s world the great majority of us have our wages directly deposited into our accounts and receiving a Social Security check in the mail is long gone. The bottom line, as time goes on, more and more of our business will be transacted online. What we have to accept is that the crooks are working overtime and you and I have to make sure that we take security seriously and do what we have to do to protect ourselves. After all, the old adage is true, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Good luck!

Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. His website is If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at -.