Steps to Protect Your Privacy and Data in 2016.

January 25, 2016

2015 was a bad year for data breaches with numerous high profile company hacks leading to the loss of our personal information. The ways things are going 2016 is likely to be even worse.
Just a few of the once trusted organizations that lost consumers data last year included:
·         Health insurer Anthem had their servers accessed by hackers. Personal information of their employees, customers and those of other smaller insurers who Anthem did work for, was taken.
·         Hackers broke into the systems of credit monitoring firm Experian and stole records of 15 million T-Mobile clients. Details taken included names, addresses, birthdates, drivers license and in some cases Social Security and passport numbers. This is not the first time; both companies have lost customer data either.
·         The US Office of Personal Management was hacked and lost personal records of over 22 million federal government employees. The stolen data even included those who applied for positions but weren’t employed.
·         VTech Holdings who manufacture children’s electronic toys was hacked. Personal information including names, dates of birth, emails, addresses, passwords as well as photographs belong to 6 million children and their parents, was stolen.
The unfortunate fact as should be obvious from the list above, is you can’t rely on anyone who collects your personal data to actually keep it safe. So while you can’t stop companies from losing your data, you can however make the data less valuable to the thieves and make it more difficult for them to steal from you.
Here are a few simple steps to protect yourself.
1) Upgrade your passwords
It’s a known fact that too many people use the same password for multiple online accounts. Thus if one company exposes your password, (as in the companies attacked above) cyber thieves will try and access multiple online accounts including all common email accounts, Facebook and other social media websites, iTunes, Netflix, bank accounts, online storage like Dropbox, etc. to see which digital doors the same email and password combination will allow them into.
The answer of course is to use a unique, difficult to guess password for every online account or service you use. Experience however tells us this is impossible unless you use a service or product to help you keep track. The solution is to use a password manager, which creates unique and also impossible to crack passwords and stores them in an encrypted “vault”. Products I like include:
·         LastPass (
·         RoboForm (
·         Sticky Password (, which uses your fingerprint to authenticate you.
2) Watch out for Phishing attacks
Phishing attacks commonly combine stolen personal data in faked, impersonating company emails in attempts to trick users into divulging passwords and/or installing malware onto your systems. The same applies to text messages or phone calls. Fraudsters are now using mobile phone contact details to try and trick users into giving up personal information.
Common signs of phishing attacks include:
·         Emails asking you to click on a link to reset your password (when you haven’t asked for a password reset)
·         Emails asking for your personal information that aren’t personalized to your correct name. (Although these are becoming less common as fraudsters are more professional)
·         Emails asking you to call a number to confirm your personal information.
·         Be aware of clicking on any links in emails unless you were expecting the email. Likewise be wary of opening attachments are that unsolicited.
3) Check all your accounts on a regular basis
Check all financial accounts and statements for unusual items on a regular basis. Even if it’s an account you don’t use very often. If anything looks strange call and query the transaction.  The sooner any fraudulent transactions are spotted the easier it is to put a stop to them.
4) Protect your Social Security Number
Your social security number (SSN) is the key to accessing your financial data. Entities who require your SSN include employers, the IRS, banks and lenders and government agencies. If anyone else asks for your SSN, inquire why they need it. In most cases for instance at doctors offices, landlords, insurers, cell phone companies, schools and sports clubs there is no need to let them have your SSN.  Some may deny you service but that’s a chance many privacy minded individuals now accept and simply go elsewhere.
Lastly, never carry your SSN card with you. Leave it safely stored at home in a secure location.
For more easy to apply information on how to protect your privacy and personal information see John’s book Hack Proof. Available from Amazon and other book sellers. To contact the author go to

John's recently did a Webinar for Christian Financial Concepts. You can view the Webinar at the link below.
"How to Really Protect your Personal Data and Communications in 2016"

Internet Resources:
·         LastPass (
·         RoboForm (
·         Sticky Password (, which uses your fingerprint to authenticate you.

VTech hack exposes ID theft risk in connecting kids to Internet
Massive breach at health care company Anthem Inc.
Experian Hack Slams T-Mobile customers
Why the “biggest government hack ever” got past the feds

Copyright ©2016

John Berry is an author, speaker and consultant with more than two decades of successful enterprise software and cyber security experience. He has authored easy to apply information on how to protect your privacy and personal information in his book Hack Proof, available from Amazon and other book sellers. 

He speaks, writes about and advises on matters of cyber security protection, identify theft, hacking and privacy issues. John has lived, worked and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the United States. He and his family currently reside in Southern Florida.

He can be contacted at
Visit John Berry's website at