Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Advanced Identity Protection Tactics from A Yooper Steampunk

As you're well aware of by now, I occasionally write letters to the editor of my hometown paper.  I've tried to cut down on this as I try to become less politically reactionary (and live up to the "you're entitled to your opinion, even if it's wrong" mentality that I claim to have).  Recently, however, I saw an opportunity to expand on an editorial they had printed about the importance of being proactive in protecting your identity.  That letter was printed yesterday, and is reprinted below:

The editorial run in the Daily Press on Sept. 5 offered a number of great tips for readers to protect themselves from identity theft. However, in an increasingly technological age, I don't think your suggestions went far enough. Here are a few more advanced tips to protect yourself.
1.) Avoid "About Me" memes, especially those that ask questions like "What is your mother's maiden name?," "What color was your first car?," or "What was your high school's mascot?." These questions are commonly used security questions for retrieving passwords. Memes are full of these questions. Armed with these answers and an email address, any hacker can easily access your online accounts.
2.) Get rid of (or block) Pay Wave cards. One of the most common types of identity theft involves a person sitting in a public space with a laptop and a box that looks like an external hard drive. Portable RFID tag readers can scan your credit card information from Pay Wave cards from a surprising distance. Scam artists then use this info to clone your card and make purchases on your dime. If you have a Pay Wave card, call up your card issuer and request a non-Pay Wave version. If there isn't one available, buy a protective wallet. It doesn't have to be one of those Alumiwallets that you see ads for on TV. Any wallet equipped with a layer of conductive material will block the signals from your Pay Wave cards from being read.
3.) Use the longest password possible. Many security experts advocate using special characters such as &, #, @, &, and along with upper and lower case letters and numbers to make your password more complex. This is a good idea, however, using the longest password that you can works even better. Mathematically, "TheEscanabaDailyPressNewspaper" is a much better password than "D41lypR355." Why? Each character has a certain number of options. The more characters you use, the longer it takes for a program to guess the correct combination of characters.
4.) Protect yourself on all networks. Every network that you access has the possibility of being monitored. There are a number of ways to prevent yourself from being monitored and leaving personal information behind on either a personal or private computer. The most advanced of these is a product about to come out called SurfEasy (surfeasy.com/). SurfEasy allows you to surf any network, any computer, and not leave a trace of data behind. It heavily encrypts all data and even eludes almost all corporate and government firewalls.
Protecting yourself online is your responsibility. Taking a few steps beyond the norm will make you nearly identity theft proof.
Bryan J. Sebeck
Canton, Mich.

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