Swiped: how to stay safe with tech

Story by Ashley Smith, News Editor

Nobody is safe and it’s only a matter of time before it happens to you. Are we talking about murder or disease? Neither. Cyber security. Your identity being stolen or even your computer being hacked is inevitable. The hackers and keyboard thieves just haven’t gotten to you yet. 

In his warning call to the world, Adam Levin, author of “Swiped,” writes about the risks and what you can do to protect yourself online. Levin is the former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, co-founder of Credit.com, and co-founder and chairman of CyberScout. Thus, he probably knows what he’s talking about. 

“I felt that people weren’t getting the message as loud and clear as they should.” Levin said in a phone call. “When it comes to any of us, to a hacker we are Kim Kardashian. They want our data.” 

Though you may not know it, pieces of your information are a treasure map leading to the ultimate treasure: your social security number. “Your social security number is the skeleton key to your life.” 

By posting when your birthday is, where you live, your full name or other identifying factors, an identity thief can piece them together and become you. It has gone way beyond just stealing credit card information. With your social security number and other personal information, thieves can open accounts in your name and you’re the one who suffers for it. 

“Everything you do online is a breadcrumb trail that gets back to you,” Levin said. “Every piece of information is a mosaic that can be pulled together.” 

Luckily, Levin had a few tips in his book to minimize your risk of exposure and how to manage when it happens to you. 

Think about when you post online, and think about it thoroughly. Once it’s up, it’s up. Yes, it can be deleted, but the data is still there. But anybody who sees it before it is deleted can still make use of it. Using the same password for everything (or even a few of the same ones) can be an effective way to get hacked. Two factor authentications can minimize your risk as well. 

“When you set up security protocols, lie like a superhero,” Levin said. “Clark Kent lied to everyone except Lois Lane. You don’t have to give the real answer. Just don’t be so creative that you forget.” 

Operating on a secure network is important. Using public WIFI can lead a hacker to your information while you’re on the network and after. 

Posting your location on social media poses another threat. 

Remember those peace signs we used to do in pictures in middle school? Once zoomed into a photo, an identity thief can steal and use your fingerprint while your hand is facing outward. Your thumbprint can be used for accessing your phone and be a fake identifier. 

Your social media accounts can provide a ton of information. Pictures can give clues to your location. The background of your picture can indicate where you live or spend a lot of time at. They can give them points of interest. Your information such as where you work, where you’re from, and your email are all common information that can be found on your page that can help a hacker create a new you. 

Videos and pages that are liked can be a reason for an identity thief to contact you. Once they see your interests, a person can message you with a video involving your like. After clicking on the link to the video, you’re trapped. 

Remember, there are ways to be smart about your online presence. With these recommendations from Adam Levin, and the amount of information about cyber security in “Swiped,” can help you protect yourself online. 

Yes, there are billions of people’s information posted in the cyber space world, but yours is still unsafe.