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How to Protect Yourself from Digital Identity Theft

Michelle Wilson - May 20, 2022

How to Protect Yourself from Digital Identity Theft

As society continues to catapult into an increasingly digital future, the pandemic highlighted the importance of digital influence within the community. As QR codes with restaurant menus and digital vaccine passports persisted, more of our lives revolved around smartphones and computers. Although we still hold the physical markers of our identity, banking apps, medical records, and record-keeping continues to push into a digital realm.

But unfortunately, having an increasingly demanding digital presence doesn’t absolve us of risk online. Knowing the dangers and adequately managing and securing these digital identities is paramount. Although many users understand the importance of secure passwords, security is more complicated for businesses needing to monitor hundreds or thousands of employee accounts.

Understanding Cyberattacks in the Workplace

Most cyberattacks were brute force attacks, employees falling for malicious emails or vulnerability exploitation. Research suggests that many transitioning from the previous working from home and connecting back to the enterprise caused a surge in attacks. Many businesses have their cybersecurity software in place to prevent these breaches, but employee errors make it difficult to get a handle on.

Employers can leverage a few tips to help businesses understand the importance of identity management to ensure their employees adequately maintain digital identities.

Most Common Security Threats for Businesses

Financial Frauds

Financial fraudsters have been giving businesses a massive headache since the first online businesses started entering the online realm. Various kinds of financial fraud remain prevalent for online companies, particularly in the e-commerce industry. These include credit card fraud, fake returns, and refund fraud.

Phishing Attempts

Several online businesses have reported that customers occasionally receive fraudulent emails from hackers, often pretending to be legitimate store owners. These emails start as fake copies of the company, including emails requesting account verification or account locking. When a customer submits their account information, criminals access the account and compromise the identity.

Establish an information security guide

Consistently develop and share a simple, informative guide for employees to read. This guide should contain concrete steps and guidelines to follow. Employees should read the guide during onboarding to minimize cyber incidents.

As cyberspace continues to evolve, policies will need continuous review and adjustment. It’s essential to determine whether your privacy policies are compliant and safeguard your business information. This information must include all client, patient, and customer data. Policies should always cover internet and software use, social media accounts, reporting lost or stolen device policies, detecting phishing or email scams in the workplace, and effective password management.

Educating all employees on cyber and privacy safety

As human error leads to vulnerability within businesses, it’s crucial to maintain ongoing training initiatives. This education can limit liabilities and risks while encouraging a thorough understanding of consequences and privacy influence. Areas of focus include password security training, current threat analysis, ensuring privacy awareness, and educational information on data breaches.

Incorporating a Security Culture within the Organization

Having policies within the workplace is only a small portion of online security. Changing behavior is another critical component of organization security, internet safety, and privacy compliance. Implementation includes IT hygiene, including secure wireless networks, backup diligence about backups, firewall setup, and two-factor authorization. It’s also essential to establish the BYOD policy as a living document, frequently revisiting the document.

Consider leveraging a password manager

Having a new password for every account is crucial for maintaining corporate security. Unfortunately, trying to remember thousands of unique passwords is nearly impossible. Using a password manager will store all the account passwords while continuing to develop new and unique passwords for the accounts.

Cybercriminals love approaching employees through work emails, mainly when their guards are down. Many assume the email comes from a reliable source, particularly when mimicking a coworker account. Always ensure the email address is correct, avoiding links or attachments from unknown senders.

Always enable two-factor authentication

Having a secure or unique password isn’t enough to keep your accounts safe online. Two-factor authentication promotes online security and limits an attacker’s attempt to access the system (even when there’s a password breach).

Determine emergency contacts

An emergency contact is someone to reach in the event of a suspicious email or ransomware note. Having a connection for any questionable activity online can eliminate employee headaches or confusion. These individuals can be system administrators, business owners, or security officers.

Preventing Ransomware Attacks Online

As ransomware attacks continue to climb, victims paid out over 3.7 billion in ransom last year. Unfortunately, ransomware attacks are designed to take over business systems in exchange for financial payments illegally. As a result, criminals disrupt businesses, and heavy financial loss ensues. Cybercriminals will use a wide range of tactics, including phishing attempts, to access systems.

Unfortunately, once a criminal is in the account, it’s only a matter of time before the systems are compromised and users find themselves locked out.

Many ransomware attacks typically involve users clicking on malicious links or attachments (PDF, Word Document, ZIP, or Excel Spreadsheet). Always remain cautious of suspicious emails or SMS. If you’re not expecting it, doubt the source, or receive a document from an unknown sender, resist the temptation to click on links or attachments which could open access to cybercriminals.

Beware of Social Engineering Attempts

Cybercriminals often use psychological manipulation to trick unsuspecting users into divulging confidential information online. Anyone receiving an email requesting personal information or telling you an account is at risk is a blatant social engineering attempt. The easiest way to prevent these attacks is through awareness and education. Through close monitoring and advanced knowledge of the suspicious activity, a large portion of prevention includes the core knowledge of who to trust with personal or business information.

Establishing Unique Passwords

As the number of devices continues to climb, most people rely on daily interaction with an online account. Although most people will use the same password for their accounts, it’s crucial to hold unique and individual passwords for any created account.

Always choose a password that combines numbers, letters (including capital and lower cases), and symbols for the account. Businesses should never use identifiers like date of birth, first name, address, or phone numbers. Make sure the password is a combination of individual characters, limiting obvious personal information that would be easy to guess. If it’s easier, consider using a password manager that keeps encrypted logs of all passwords for employee accounts. A password manager should always encrypt files while limiting exposure to cybercriminals.

Conclusion

According to recent reports, 79% of all organizations have experienced identity-related security issues within the last two years. These threats will continue to climb over the years, particularly online security threats. Ensuring your staff are aware of the potential risks online is essential to corporate security. One of the easiest preventative methods is education, information, and observation. These tips mitigate ongoing risk, help businesses identify any critical factors influencing their online security, and promote online safety.

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