October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and in part to raise public awareness of the dangers of identity theft, Experian, a global information services company, has published a new survey regarding U.S. attitudes toward this serious problem.
The survey results demonstrate that while many of us are concerned about identity theft and other issues related to unsecure public WiFi hotspots, few of us are taking steps to actually protect ourselves.
What the Survey Revealed
Experian’s survey revealed some interesting facts regarding our attitudes to protecting ourselves from online identity theft, and if we are actually doing anything about it:
- 33% of respondents believe that they are not doing enough to protect their identity. Further, 73% believe they could be the target of identity theft at some point in the future, and nearly everyone (90%) believes that we should all be more concerned about identity theft.
- More than half (53%) reported that they do not check to see if a website is secure (using HTTPS) before shopping online and entering credit card information.
- 58% use public WiFi hotspots at least once a month, but 25% don’t use anything to protect themselves, such as a VPN.
- Shockingly, 38% log into their online bank accounts when using public WiFi, and two-thirds log into other personal accounts containing sensitive information.
The survey also revealed reasons why many of us fail to take actions to protect ourselves online (in a nutshell, we simply believe it won’t happen to us!):
- 29% believe only wealthy people are targeted by identity thieves.
- 42% believe it’s very hard to steal someone’s identity, and nearly one third simply believe there’s only a small chance they would be the victim of online identity theft.
- 42% are simply too tired to worry about trying to prevent identity theft; it’s too much of a hassle.
Online Security is Easier than You Might Think
It’s not hard to prevent identity theft, at least not as hard as you might think. Below are some things that you can do to help keep yourself from becoming an online identity theft victim:
- Update your passwords frequently: Make sure you always use complex passwords and change them at least once every six months. Never use the same password on different accounts, as this means that if one account is compromised, others can be as well. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, use a free password manager like LastPass to keep track of them.
- Update your antivirus software and latest patches: Make sure your computers as well as your mobile devices have up-to-date antivirus protection and the latest patches.
- Don’t click on suspicious emails, attachments, links, or websites: Identity thieves can use your personal information to hijack your identity and steal money from you.
- Keep your mobile devices secure: Use a strong password to lock your phone or tablet computer. Additionally, disable the geotagging feature on your cell phone so people do not know where you are.
- Use a VPN: Use a virtual private network (VPN) like PRIVATE WiFi to protect all of your communications on all of your devices. A VPN encrypts traffic between your device and the internet, which is your best defense if you plan on connecting to public WiFi hotspots.
Many of us seem to think that while identity theft is a serious problem, it’s too hard for us to do anything about it. That’s simply not true.
By following the simple steps above, you can make sure that you are not a target of an identity thief. And that should make you sleep a little more soundly at night.