Q: “After hearing so many stories on the news, I’m really worried about my bank account being hacked! Is there something I can do?” - Bethany
A: Well, first off, worrying never solved anything. You can brainstorm/research ways to solve or prevent the problem, but as scripture says, worrying doesn’t add a single day to your life.
That said, hacking has become a major concern with more and more of our lives becoming connected digitally. There are a lot of advantages with this, but also a lot of disadvantages. Hackers are a different kind of enemy. They consist mostly of two different types: Organized crime, and teenagers. Both types are dangerous, but in different ways and for different reasons.
Organized crime consists mostly of people in other countries who make billions of dollars from clearing out bank accounts from people all over the world.
They are very powerful with a lot of money behind them. They try to trick you with realistic looking emails and websites which mimic paypal and other such sites asking for you to log in. When you log in you are actually sending them your login information. They also send emails with links in them. When you click on the link you download a certain type of virus which watches you next time you log in and sends the information that way.
They use a shotgun approach. They won’t put much effort into any one person. If you remain wise about what emails you open, you should be okay. If someone you know sends you a link, always reply back and make sure they really did send it to you. And never log in to any program via a link sent to your email.
Teenagers and young adults hack people for one of two reasons, typically. They either want to show off to their friends/hacking community by hacking into a business (or person of note) or to get revenge on someone they don’t like.
They can be very persistent in their efforts to hack. If they really want to hack a specific business or person they can usually succeed eventually. You would need a ridiculous amount of security measures to protect yourself completely.
If you aren’t famous, or have a lot of enemies you can be safe without too much work. But, if you are a teacher or someone who ticks off a bunch of teenagers, you might be a target.
How can you protect yourself?
PROTECT YOUR EMAIL
It almost always starts with a hack into your email. So the most important step is to protect your email. Create a password that you don’t use for anything else. A strange random password that consists of numbers and letters, uses both capital and lowercase characters, and is 12-20 characters long.
I strongly recommend you start using an email service that allows 2-step log-ins. Gmail I know offers this as an option. In order to log-in, you must enter your password, then a text message is sent to your phone (or it can call you if you can’t get text messages) with a verification code which you must then type into the log-in box. So, even if a hacker can hack your password (which they can with enough time and the right software) they can’t login without your phone.
This may sound like a lot of hassle, but you only have to do it once per computer. Once you’ve verified your computer, you never have to do it again unless you ever try to log-in using someone else’s computer. It’s great because when a hacker tries to access your email from their computer, they will have to use the 2-step login.
Really persistent hackers can sometimes call your phone company and convince them to forward your calls to theirs, but it’s not easy. Assuming you aren’t famous and don’t have enemies, you don’t have to worry about that.
CHANGE YOUR SECURITY QUESTIONS
Hackers often bypass the need for your password by figuring out the answers to your security questions. You may think that only you know the answers to those questions, but you’d be surprised what hackers can dig up about you via facebook and other websites.
Come up with a ridiculously fake answer to the security questions that no one could ever figure out. If they ask for your mother’s maiden name, answer with something like “NintendoBrains4”. Think of it like a secondary password.
You’ll probably have to write these passwords down and keep them in a very hidden place where no one can find them. If you have enemies who might want to break into your house, you better hide them in a place where no one would expect you to hide something. In other words, plain site. They will check all the hiding places. Have a library? Choose a random book to write them in. Have a safe? Put it in there. If you don’t have enemies and you aren’t famous, then just keep all the passwords next to the computer.
USE DIFFERENT PASSWORDS
Don’t use the same password for your bank as you use for facebook or other social media. Use a long, random, complicated and unique password for your bank, email, and anything else that might have your credit card, bank, or paypal info saved on it.
You can use a default password for everything else if you’d like. If someone hacked one of those accounts, who cares? But, the important accounts need unique passwords that are un-guessable. Again, 12-20 characters, random word combinations, include numbers and random capitalization, etc. Pick up a dictionary and flip to a random page and blindly point to a word. Do this twice, then put the words together, add some random numbers in the middle of it, capitalize some random letters, and there’s your password!
Use AVG and a good anti-malware program to keep your computers free of dangerous viruses which may transmit your information to bad guys.
If you have enemies, are famous, are a teacher, or own a small business (small businesses are the most frequent target of those wanting to steal money), you might want to take an extra step and try to stay as unconnected as possible. In other words, don’t choose convenience over security. Don’t have your bank account connected to your phone. Don’t connect your amazon account to your facebook. Don’t connect your paypal account to amazon. It’s a lot less convenient, but you don’t want someone who hacks into one part of your life being able to gain information about how to access another part of your life.
Once you have taken the right precautions, don’t worry about it. The chances of anything happening to you are slim, and even if they do, worrying about it wouldn’t have prevented it. Just assume something bad is going to happen to you every so often, and accept it. Accept it, and live your life free of worry. Give your cares to God, and set your eye to eternity with Jesus. Everything here is temporary.
Living a life of worry is much worse than anything a hacker can do!