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How to Guard Against Identity Theft

Mohammed Abukhater, Vice President, Middle East, Turkey & Africa, F5, shares best practices to proactively guard against identify theft.

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Mohammed Abukhater, F5 Networks
Mohammed Abukhater, F5 Networks

Everyone is fair (and likely) game when it comes to identity theft.

Statistically, most cybercriminals tend to avoid “important” and high-value targets. It’s the vast numbers of easy targets that are most prominently in their crosshairs. That is true at the best of times, but the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified and emboldened their hunt for the susceptible and vulnerable.

The following suggestions are best practices for anyone that wants to proactively guard against identity theft:

  • Use a password manager.The average person has around 70 to 80 passwords, which inevitably results in hand-written notes. A password manager is your friend here, helping to create strong, unique passwords for each account. It also encrypts and stores them in a secure password vault – you only need to remember one master password.
  • Practice password hygiene. Those still unconvinced about password managers should, at the very least, start creating unique passphrases that use the maximum number of characters allowed, and remember to reset a password immediately if an account is breached. As a general rule don’t allow your browser to memorise passwords for accounts, and never use your credentials from one site to create an account or sign in to other (third-party) sites.
  • Use multi-factor authentication. Get over being annoyed by the “inconvenience” of multi-factor authentication, which requires you to enter a code sent via text message after supplying a username and password. It’s an effective, additional layer of security that should be used for every account that makes it available to you.
  • Stop oversharing online. Rethink how and what you share online. Nothing makes you an easier target for identity thieves than a wealth of voluntarily shared personal information. Combine that digital bounty with all the “quiet” data that’s been piling up behind the scenes, and there are criminals that can assume your identity in minutes.
  • Protect your privacy at home.Secure your home wireless network (try these tips from Norton), only use IoT devices that let you change the password and manage security settings, and securely dispose of old phones, laptops, and storage devices.
  • Protect your privacy in public. It’s hard to believe anyone needs this reminder, but public Wi-Fi is incredibly susceptible to eavesdropping. Never use it for online banking, shopping (any activity that involves a credit card), or medical- and health-related services. Do not share private information (such as credit card numbers, date of birth, social security number, or any membership numbers) on voice calls when in public places. You should also protect PINs, membership numbers, and other identifiers when using point-of-sale systems. Pay attention when you swipe a card (beware of hard-to-spot skimmers!) and, remember, cash still works in most places.

Avoid Being an Easy Target

Scammers don’t like obstacles, so the more stumbling blocks you put in their way, the better. The key is to avoid becoming an easy target. Know what you need to do (within your realm of possibility) and remain vigilant about doing it. Nowadays, doing nothing is not an option.

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