How changing your approach to technology can protect you from major hacks

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Hackers have had a good run in recent years, stealing credit card numbers and personal information for millions of people – maybe even you.

So what can you do to protect yourself? WHNT News 19 has reported many times on the need for checking credit reports and monitoring bank accounts to watch for signs of a hack. Unfortunately, those are steps that can only be taken once the damage is done.

To protect yourself before hackers strike, you might need to re-think how you use technology.

First, it’s important to understand just how big a problem hacking has become. Just a few of the more recent examples include a Target hack, where 40 million people had debit and credit card data exposed, as well as an Anthem hack, where personal health data for 80 million people was compromised.

So back to that issue of prevention.

According to one local cyber security expert, the most important thing you can do to protect your data and by default, your identity, is to admit you may not be a technology-savvy person. “Some people have a very hard time with that,” explained Rick Fernandez, a security engineer for LogRhythm.

Fernandez tells WHNT News 19 we should all try to minimize our connections to the digital world and use only as much device as we really need. A flip phone, for example, offers less opportunities for data exposure than a smartphone. A tablet offers less than a computer.

Fernandez uses a personal example to illustrate the point, “My mother wanted a computer and I told her, ‘Well, I can’t give you a computer but I can give you an iPad’, so now I’ve reduced her footprint.”

That’s especially important for children or elderly family members, who may be less knowledgeable about digital security but want to stay connected to lovedones. Some devices, like an iPad, don’t require complicated anti-virus software upgrades or security patches. “It sorta manages itself, doesn’t get a virus,” said Fernandez.

Consider what you, or some in your family, may be comfortable handling. Don’t be afraid to consult with a sales representative in a technology retailer when buying as well.

Another key tip for all of us: passwords. Set good ones; different for every account. Make them long and use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Remember to change them frequently too.

Above all, recognize that no information you share digitally is totally hack-proof and be prepared for the possible consequences.

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For more on this subject, check out these related reports from WHNT News 19 technology correspondent Michelle Stark:

How all those cyber hacks happen and how they get so massive

Where your personal information goes after a massive hack