Equifax recently found that at least 145.5 million Americans were affected by their hack. Yahoo just revealed that all 3 billion accounts were compromised in the major 2013 hack, including names, email addresses, and more. These hacks have become more and more common as more important information is stored online. But what can you do to protect yourself in these situations?
What information was compromised?
The Equifax hack included:
- Social Security numbers
- birth dates
- potentially driver’s license and credit card numbers.
The Yahoo hack included:
- email addresses
- telephone numbers
- dates of birth
- security questions and answers.
What can I do?
Equifax – adapted from IdentityTheft.gov and FTC.gov
To find out if your information was compromised in the Equifax hack, visit equifaxsecurity2017.com and go to Am I Impacted? Then, enter your last name and last 6 digits of your Social Security number. You are also able to enroll in a free year of credit monitoring at the same site.
You should also request a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. You can order a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus each year from this website. Carefully review these reports for any anomalies and continue to do so for the next several years.
You may want to consider a credit freeze, which makes it more difficult for another person to open an account in your name. A credit freeze does not prevent you from requesting a credit report or affect your credit score. If you plan to open a new credit card, finance a new phone, etc., you will need to remove the credit freeze before doing so. Credit bureaus typically charge $5-10 to freeze your credit.
File your taxes early. The information taken in the Equifax hack can be used by scammers to file falsified taxes.
If you receive a notification that your credit card has been compromised, notify your bank for a new card and regularly review transactions.
Yahoo – adapted from Digital Trends
Change your password! Create a strong password using the strategies discussed in Protect Yourself Online.
Disable your account’s security questions. Many of these answers were compromised in the hack or can be easily found through your Facebook or other social media accounts. Instead, set up a recovery email and/or phone number. If you change phone numbers or email addresses, make sure to update these recovery options!
Change passwords that are similar to your old Yahoo account’s password. It’s best to use unique passwords for each online account.
What can we learn from these hacks?
These hacks can teach us a lot about keeping our own information safe online. The Equifax hack was a direct result of not applying updates in a timely manner. Updates – while annoying at times – help patch up security flaws. Make sure to keep your own computers and mobile devices up to date.
The Yahoo hack shows how important it is to have unique passwords for each online account. Consider using a password manager like 1Password or LastPass to keep track and even create strong, unique passwords for each online account.